Man might lose home when state park closes

June 15, 2011 8:24:47 PM PDT
As California grapples with its budget problems, the cuts have reached areas traditionally thought of as "off-limits," including state parks.

California will close seventy of them next year, including China Camp in Marin County -- one closure that comes with humanitarian complications.

China Camp State Park is not so much a place where time stands still as one from which time has marched on, and not always in a good way.

Nowadays, it takes a person from the olds days to remember. Around China Camp, that would be Frank Quan.

"In the old days, there should be thirty or forty boats out there," Quan said.

Quan is the last resident from what used to be a fishing village of 500 people -- a man who left just once to fight in World War II from a family that has occupied the same shoreline house in the park since 1890, and that's where things get complicated.

Though Quan doesn't want to move, he could conceivably have to. When California drafted its list of state parks to close for budget cuts, China Camp was on it.

The state figures shutdown includes all 1,500 acres including Quan's house. Quan lives in it, but the state owns it, calling it a special case.

"This is the first time we have closed a park," said Denita Rodriguez with the California State Park system. "It's a first-time situation for us. We're still working out the details."

Quan describes the house as nothing fancy, but lived in comfortable. Just past the front door and through the porch screen, he watches the day-to-day life of China Camp, the only place he really knows and for now, the only certainty.

State park officials say amid the closure, they're not certain what will happen to the China Camp General Store and Snack Bar, the business Quan has set up right outside his home. Quan still sells Oregon shrimp there.

The store is so dated and run down that now it's more trendy than ever -- a place with pictures on the wall of movie stars who ate here and an old cigarette machine that's empty. The place still have stools stripped of varnish by the back sides -- a sign of eight decades of customers.

The store and park represent a $340,000 annual budget per year from the state.

"We're talking peanuts as far as money is concerned," Quan said.

And yet, more than enough to upset the rest of an 85-year-old man's life, his business, his house and his home. A park visited by 100,000 paying visitors a year is in limbo.

"We have a year left until we have to shut it down," Quan said. "Maybe something will happen between now and then?"

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