SoHum state parks alive and kicking

Virginia Graziani

Redwood Times

The Southern Humboldt/Northern Mendocino area is unusually blessed with state parks. While Humboldt Redwoods State Park is the largest and sees the most visitors each year, four other local parks provide a variety of outdoor experiences for travelers and residents.

Two State Recreation Areas, Benbow Lake and Standish-Hickey, defied the state’s closure list and stayed at least partly open to visitors in the summer of 2012.

In response to public requests, State Parks officials agreed to keep Benbow open for day use, while dedicated volunteers re-opened Standish-Hickey one month after it was shut down for lack of funds.

In the meantime two parks not on the state’s closure list, Richardson Grove and Sinkyone Wilderness, were open for both day use and camping all season, in spite of staff cutbacks.

Statistics from State Parks’ North Coast Redwoods district headquarters in Eureka show steady use at all four parks during the May through September summer season, with one brief exception.

Standish-Hickey logged in no day use visitors in June, the month it was closed by the state but the Team Standish/Mendocino Area Parks Foundation volunteer management agreement had not yet been approved by the state. Local volunteers received permission to open a part of one campground to accommodate hike-and-bike campers only during June, so even while officially closed, Standish-Hickey served 56 campers.

Over the five-month summer season, Standish-Hickey counted 480 day-users and 1,870 campers, in spite of the loss of publicity from the state.

Benbow Lake SRA was open to day use only, including the Mateel Community Center’s annual Summer Arts and Music Fair. Nearly 2,500 day-users came to Benbow during the months of May through September.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, the only local park not on Highway 101, saw slightly over 1,500 day users and almost the same number of campers during the season.

Richardson Grove State Park, the second-largest of the SoHum parks after Humboldt Redwoods with the second-most number of campsites, hosted over 4,400 day-users and more than 9,000 campers.

Not a bad year for state parks in SoHum in spite of scandals and shortfalls.