For months, the city of Benicia, Calif., has been working with the California state parks department on an agreement to keep the Benicia State Recreation Area open.
According to the Bay Citizen, San Francisco, the park was one of 70 parks around the state slated to close after the state cut $22 million from the parks department budget last year.
But two weeks ago, an investigation revealed the department has been sitting on a $54 million surplus for several years. The director of the agency, Ruth Coleman, quickly resigned, and its chief deputy director, Michael Harris, was fired. The agency’s chief counsel, Ann Malcolm, also left.
“Now, we don’t know who is going to sign (the agreement),” said Mario Giuliani, economic development manager for the city.
Across the state municipalities like Benicia and nonprofits like the Benicia State Parks Association, which are working to sign agreements with the parks department to keep parks open, don’t know what will happen to those efforts.
“Up in the air,” is how Bob Berman, board vice president of the Benicia State Parks Association, described the status of the Benicia agreements.
According to the state parks department, it has signed deals with nonprofits and government agencies to keep 42 parks open. However, it has not finalized agreements that would prevent more than 20 others from closing, including the two in Benicia.
State park officials said they hope to complete those deals.
“We are going to continue working with them in good faith for potential agreements,” said Roy Stearns, a spokesman for California state parks department.
Under its proposed agreement, Benicia had planned to pay the state $15,500 a year to keep water flowing to drinking fountains and a native plant garden, collect trash and maintain two portable toilets at the recreation area.
But now the city wants to make those payments in quarterly installments, hedging its bets in hopes of seeing some of the department’s budget surplus.
“We want to be in a position where we can recover some of that money,” said Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, acknowledging that it will take time for the state to determine how the surplus can be spent. “It does take a while to get some action from the legislature and the governor.”
In some cases, the proposed agreements would not restore all of the services the state has provided. In Benicia, the gates to the state recreation area’s parking lot would be closed, but walkers, runners and bicyclists would have access to the park.
The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) has re-examined its stance on state conventions. Despite the desire and interest of CalARVC’s staff and board, a decision was made to put CalARVC’s convention on a hiatus. The reason is waning attendance, according to the association in this week’s edition of “Wednesday Morning Coffee Talk & Updates.”
CalARVC noted, “The financial and resource commitment to produce a convention is well over $100,000. Documented attendance at CalARVC and other industry conventions has been in a steady decline over the past six years. The board and staff decided that it could not risk the money to finance such a venture. You entrust us to spend your dues dollars wisely. Producing a convention is no longer a wise use of your membership dues.
“The question then becomes, ‘How do we provide education and networking opportunities for our members?’ ‘How do we connect the essential services of the industry’s suppliers with our member campgrounds?’ We are looking for a select group of CalARVC members and suppliers to help us figure out a new delivery model for these services. Our members have always brought home valuable information and insights from the convention. They have always connected and built relationships with each other and vendors. In this day and age of the Internet, smart phones and social media, fewer and fewer people are willing to take time off of work and invest in off-site meetings….even when they know and admit it was always worth the time and investment in the past.”
Campgrounds and RV parks in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills are finding it pays to be green, including Auburn Gold Country RV Resort in Auburn.
According to a press release, the 66-site park, which also has three rental cabins and a small tent section, just completed installation of $500,000 solar power system.
“It’s a 105 kilowatt system that covers about 60% of our electrical needs,” said park owner John Grant.
Grant received a federal grant for the project, which covered $150,000, or 30% of the cost. He financed the remaining $350,000 with a 6% loan from Placer County.
“We’re a big rig park and those big RVs draw lots of power,” Grant said. “But the savings from generating our own solar power will offset what we have to pay in loans, so we’ll break even.”
Grant added that he’ll receive additional tax and depreciation savings as a result of installing the solar power system, which includes 444 panels on a 1.5-acre section of his park.
The solar system will also offset a considerable amount of carbon emissions each year, including 212,000 pounds of carbon dioxide; 145 pounds of NOX, a leading cause of smog; 36 pounds of S02, a leading cause of acid rain; and 42 pounds of particulates.
“We’re able to achieve these carbon pollution offsets because the power we consume with the solar system doesn’t have to be generated elsewhere,” Grant said.
Auburn Gold Country RV Resort is not the only privately owned RV resort in the Sierra foothills to have solar power. Other facilities include:
• Angels Camp RV & Camping Resort in Calaveras County installed a solar energy system three years ago.
• Campland on the Bay in San Diego invested in water saving showerheads and recycle bins. The park also encourages its employees to bicycle across the park as much as possible.
• Cottonwood Cove Resort and Marina on Lake Mohave, which is owned and operated by Forever Resorts, plans to build the nation’s first ever LEED certified floating green building this year. The floating eco-friendly structure will house boat rental and servicing operations.
• Coyote Valley RV Resort in Morgan Hill has invested in native, drought tolerant plants.
• Far Horizons 49’er Village RV Resort in Plymouth opened a new swimming pool complex three years ago that includes energy efficient pumps. Additionally, the park invested about $25,000 to develop a new source for raw water for resort irrigation needs.
• Pinewood Cove at Trinity Center, a 100-site campground uses only environmentally friendly cleaning products as well as energy and water saving devices, such as fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow shower heads
• Pleasure Cove Marina at Lake Berryessa, also managed by Forever Resorts, uses fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow shower heads at the marina’s campground.
• Vineyard RV Park in Vacaville, a 119-site park, has invested in water and energy saving fixtures after requesting water and power audits from its local utilities.
Desiree Harrison has one of the most unusual jobs in California. According to a press release, Harrison is a guide at Pacific Dunes Ranch Riding Stables, leading horseback riding trips through a lushly forested area that includes a creek that’s inhabited by beavers and frequented by deer, before reaching one of the only beaches in California where people can go horseback riding.
She then takes riders back on another trail that traverses the scenic Oceano Dunes, an 18-mile-long stretch of sand dunes that were once inhabited by the Chumash Indians.
“This is one of only of handful of areas along the California coast where you can go horseback riding through forest, along a beach and cut through scenic sand dunes on the same ride,” said Harrison, who works as assistant general manager of the stables, which generates much of its business from Pacific Dunes Ranch RV Resort, a 215-site RV park that’s part of the Equity LifeStyle Properties chain.
Travelers visiting the Pismo Beach area drive right past the Pacific Dunes Ranch Riding Stables on their way to the RV resort. And if they have children with them, chances are they won’t be able to get out of there without first taking a ride.
“For a lot of kids, this is their first horseback riding experience,” said Ken Napp, the stable’s manager, adding, “Our trips are geared toward families and beginners.”
Several rides are scheduled each day except Wednesday and Thursday and are available to children 7 and older. “Unless it’s raining, we’re open,” Napp said.
He added that while the Pacific Dunes Ranch RV Resort and Riding Stables attract horseback riding enthusiasts from Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, the RV resort is also a popular destination for off-road vehicle enthusiasts who are drawn to a 1,500-acre section of the Oceano Sand Dunes that are open to off road vehicle use.
“Oftentimes, the guys will go off roading and the girls will come over here and go horseback riding with us,” he said.
RVers traveling with their own horses can also board them at the stables overnight. “We have 18 stalls available for overnight use,” Napp said.
“Pacific Dunes RV Resort and the adjacent riding stables are one of the most unique destinations along the California coast,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of RV Parks and Campgrounds, adding that they are popular stops for travelers who are touring the California coast.
For more information on Pacific Dunes Ranch RV Resort and the stables, please visit http://www.rvonthego.com/.
For additional commentary, statistics and sources on the latest camping trends in campgrounds, RV parks and resorts or for leads on parks in your news coverage area, please contact Debbie Sipe at (530) 885-1624. Listings of private campgrounds, online reservation requests and other camping-related information is also available at http://www.camp-california.com/.
Today, the great outdoors is filled not only with pools, game rooms and horseshoe pits but giant movie screens, inflatable bounce pillows, cappuccino carts and, of course, Wi-Fi. Tent sites and recreational vehicle parks sharing space with cabins and fully appointed lodges, according to the Contra Costa Times.
• El Capitan Canyon: About 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, this luxury campground offers fully appointed cedar cabins — some of which look bigger and nicer than a house — and raised canvas safari tents with willow beds and linens. There’s a restaurant and deli selling barbecue kits. During the summer, guests can enjoy free concerts on Saturday nights. Beach cruise bikes are also complimentary.
• Petaluma KOA Camping: The 70-acre campground has tent and RV sites, cabins and Wine Country lodges with a private bedroom, bunk bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, television and DVD, fire pit and deck. The campground has a playground, basketball and volleyball courts, pool, arcade, movie theater, dog park and themed weeks during the summer. San Francisco and Wine Country tours also are available.
• Crystal Cove Beach Cottages: Located in Crystal Cove State Park Historic District, these restored cottages were built as part of a seaside colony in the 1930s and ’40s. Available for rent are 11 individual cottages with different floor plans and designs and three dorm-style cottages. Most have kitchens and views of the ocean in Newport Beach.
• Sacred Rocks Reserve: The tent and RV park in San Diego County has a mile-long labyrinth for meditation, a pool, clubhouse with movie nights and a dog run. Also available for rent are a bunkhouse that sleeps 14 and two show models of its eco-friendly vacation homes. Home to an artists’ colony, the reserve hosts workshops in writing, poetry, photography and crafts and holds occasional geocaching events.
• Emerald Desert RV Park: This gem in Palm Springs for RVs only is a resort in disguise. There’s a driving range and two-hole putting green, tennis courts, two pools, a fitness center, indoor and outdoor spas, a video library and event catering. Golf and tennis clinics are offered seasonally. Two-bedroom condos with luxury furnishings are available to rent.
• Manhattan Beach KOA: The biggest draw here is direct access to a five-mile stretch of beach. Like other KOA sites, Manhattan Beach offers tent and RV sites, cabins and cottages, but it also rents stationary trailers for guests who want a more traditional camping experience (without the tent). Amenities include an 18-hole disc golf course, two bocce ball courts, food court, pool, arcade, volleyball court, two playgrounds, dog park and peddle carts for rent. Television and DVD rentals also are available.
• Santa Cruz KOA: There’s little chance of being bored at this park at La Selva Beach. Intriguing attractions include a mechanical bull, mechanical surfboard, fun train and agility course for pets. There are outdoor movies, a game room, pool, espresso cafe, volleyball and basketball courts, climbing wall, bounce pillow and playground, as well as golf carts, bike rentals and mini golf for an extra charge. The campground also has a pizza parlor with campsite deliveries, Sunday pancake breakfasts and Saturday barbecue lunches. And in addition to cabins and lodges, guests can rent classic Airstream trailers.
• The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course: The 90-site RV resort located just outside Anza Borrego State Park capitalized on its hot mineral baths by opening a wellness center last month. Services include massages, acupuncture and acupressure. It was named Small RV Park of the Year last year by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. The reason: a 9-hole golf course, dog park, saltwater swimming pool, fitness center, tennis courts, pond with catch-and-release fishing and an astronomy park with an 11-inch telescope. The Springs also rents RVs.
• Campland on the Bay: The park in San Diego offers a private getaway called the Super Site — private patio, grill and hot tub, all tucked away from the other campsites. For everyone, there’s a pool, marina with 124 slips, watercraft and bike rentals, game room, restaurant, new skate park and activities that include sand castle building contests, concerts with live bands and scavenger hunts.