California is set to establish its first new state park in 13 years.
The 2,500-acre property, known as Dos Rios Ranch, will likely be donated to the California state park system by River Partners, a non-profit that has worked to rehabilitate and rewild the land after years of use as farmland.
“Dos Rios Ranch would be a remarkable addition to California’s natural wonders,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement shared with CNN. “Our state parks system is the largest and most diverse in the country – home to ancient redwoods, over 300 miles of coastline, and thousands of historic and prehistoric archeological sites.
“California needs more state parks – and state parks that all Californians can benefit from.”
California Department of Parks and Recreation Director Armando Quintero explained to CNN that the state is currently in the process of finalizing the acquisition. “California State Parks needs to complete a thorough review of the transaction and obtain approvals from state oversight agencies before it is able to accept this property,” said Quintero.
“We have to go through and make sure all the titles are cleared,” he said. “We’re fairly confident it’s going to be pretty straightforward.”
They expect the new park, which will be named through a participatory process with the public and the California State Parks Commission, will open in 2023.
Quintero said that the government had requested $5 million to be set aside to purchase the park. But because the property was actually donated by River Partners, the state will now be able to use that funding “to start putting in services.”
The land’s unique location at the intersection of two rivers makes it a particularly attractive location for a state park, said Quintero.
“There are places in the park where you’re standing in a stand of oak trees that are hundreds of years old, on the shore of a river, looking across at marshlands and a wildlife refuge that has just got an incredible amount of wildlife,” he said. “It really feels like a wild California.”
But despite all its wild attributes, the park will be just 20 minutes from downtown Modesto, California.
The preservation of the park also has environmental benefits, according to Quintero. The restoration of the woodland on the property will help reduce the risk of flooding and provide heat protection.
“This park, its significance is that it becomes a multipurpose public land,” he said.
“I’m hoping that this becomes a model that we can demonstrate to the public, and then in partnership with the public we take advantage of those opportunities.”
Quintero said that the state will decide what services the park will offer in collaboration with the public. Possibilities include trails, campgrounds, and kayaking or canoeing in the two rivers.
Julie Renter, the president of River Partners, also emphasized the property’s unique environmental value.
“When people come to visit it, they’ll be able to see ecosystem restoration in action, see compelling water management stories that are important as we think about climate change, drought, groundwater recharge, flood conveyance,” she told CNN.
“We all dreamed that one day, after this property was kind of restored and reforested, reconnected to the river, it would have public access.”
The non-profit spent nearly 10 years restoring the property, bringing back trees and shrubs plants – which made it an attractive habitat for returning wildlife, like rabbits, monarch butterflies, and wood rats.
“Turning this property into a state park gives the people of California this tremendous recreational asset where none exists right now, in a location that can’t be matched,” said Renter.
Renter also highlighted the collaboration required between River Partners and other partners, like the Tuolumne River Trust, to restore and establish the park. “It’s a really cool model of partnership and collaboration across multiple different agencies, different programs, organizations, all coming together.”