In the summer of 2015, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) held a series of brainstorming sessions with docents, staff, the CBTA Board and other interested people regarding possible changes to the Calaveras Big Trees State Park general plan. This was part of the process of conceptual facility planning for our Park. The general plan was written in 1989, and there have been major changes in our population, culture and what people expect at a park in the twenty-first century.

On June 2, Jess Cooper, the Central Valley District Superintendent, presided over a meeting in Jack Knight Hall to present some possible alternative plans for facilities at our park that had been developed by Design Workshop, a company based in South Lake Tahoe that has worked with several state parks. The plans presented focused on three main areas: day use experience, diverse overnight facilities and reduction of vehicular congestion.

The three day-use options considered alternatives for the arrival experience, traffic flow, parking and picnic areas. Overnight facilities plans included rehabilitating the North Grove campsites, relocating the group campsites, adding low-impact cabins and providing suitable spaces for recreational vehicles (RVs). Two options for placing more cabins and RV spaces in the Park on the north side of Highway 4 (uphill from the maintenance yard) were shown. Highway 4 would need to widen to four lanes between the road to the new development and the main Park entrance to provide a merging lane downhill and a left turn lane uphill. A shuttle bus system throughout the Park during high season (Memorial Day through Labor Day) was suggested as a way to reduce traffic and connect remote areas such as the South Grove and the proposed development across Highway 4.

The forty or so docents attending made comments and raised numerous questions following the presentation. Major concerns were safety issues for traffic and pedestrians if camping facilities were developed across Highway 4 and the current urgent need for more restroom facilities, water fountains and improved signage. Other concerns were the need for more utilities and personnel, as well as Park facilities in winter. A controversial option was the conversion of the historical white house that is currently the ranger station into a camp store. Questions were raised as to the overall goal of the plans. Superintendent Cooper responded that one of the aims was establishing financial sustainability by closing the gap between costs and fees collected.

This meeting was intended to collect feedback about the facility options. No time-line has been set, but this process is “to be continued…” Stay tuned!

By Vida Kenk