Group saves China Camp ahead of closure deadline


Frank Quan is as much a part of China Camp State Park as the buildings and rusticity. He is the last resident of what used to be a fishing village of 500 people. A man who left just once, to fight in World War II. His family has occupied the same house in the park since 1890.

The state owns it, along with that snack bar he runs, just outside the window. So imagine Quan's concern when he learned China Camp would close to save $340,000 from the state budget.

But the question of where he would have gone if the park closed appears to have a happy ending in sight, thanks to a community that would not give up.

"I knew I wanted to do something with China Camp, but I did not know what I was getting myself into," Friends of China Camp spokesperson Ernest Chung said.

Chung first fell in love with China Camp's 1,500 acres because of its mountain biking trails. The thought of losing access to them and seeing all of the beauty behind locks and keys inspired him to form the Friends of China Camp. They're 800 strong.

"I think it says government is failing, and that as citizens we need to make our voices heard," Friends of China Camp member Steve Deering said.

The Friends of China Camp estimate they need to raise $250,000 to keep the place running 12 months after July 1. But that won't be the end of it; they're looking at memberships and enforcing daily fees for people who use the park. But any way you look at it, this is a new model.

"We need to make sure that people don't come in here and ruin the place with wild parties, we need to protect it," Chung said.

With a month to go before the state's deadline, the Friends of China Camp appear to have raised most of the money to run the place themselves. It's a minor miracle in these hard times, even for a wealthy county.

"The moral imperative is that parks area right, this is open space that people have a right to enjoy and if the government can't at least operate these parks, then we're willing to step in to do it," Deering said.

There is no person more happy or relieved about that than Frank Quan.

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