No other state has as many protected parks as California, with 279 state parks devoted to ancient redwoods, wild coastline and archeological sites.
Gavin Newsom reckons it could do better.
Last week the governor announced California would establish its 280th state park at Dos Rios Ranch, a 2,500-acre former farm in “a park-poor region” currently being rewilded by a local non-profit called River Partners.
The non-profit has agreed to donate the floodplain, between the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers, allowing Newsom to direct his $5 million land-acquisition budget to park services and resources. The park will be named through a participatory process led by the parks department and will open in 2023 as California’s first new state park in 13 years.
A decade of rewilding work by River Partners has restored birdlife and “green infrastructure” to the area, to help reduce the risk of flooding and also provide heat protection. Now a veritable wildlife refuge, with old oaks overlooking the riverbanks, the land will provide a permanent home to the native rabbit and woodrat populations, along with hawks, warblers, cranes and songbirds. The rivers are known for their salmon and steelhead trout, now more plentiful. The hope is the added life will provide a welcoming habitat for endangered species.
The new park will also be a natural boon to the San Joaquin Valley, an agricultural landscape in need of hiking and nature trails, picnic areas and campgrounds.