Citing significant economic value that could result, the California Department of Parks and Recreation recommends expanding recreation areas throughout the Delta and Suisun Marsh and creating four new parks to serve the region.
The Delta Reform Act of 2009 required the State Department of Parks and Recreation to draft a proposal to expand within the Delta the network of state recreation areas, and present it to the Delta Protection Commission.
Dan Ray, Chief of the State Parks planning division, briefed the Council on the proposal at the August meeting. He explained that the proposal also calls for making improvements to recreation wildlife habitat areas, publicly-owned levees, scenic highways, state recreational trails and other public lands. He said the proposal also seeks coordination of recreation and tourism efforts and better cooperation between state, local and federal agencies.
Ray said these recommendations would enhance the value of the Delta in numerous ways. Ninety-four percent of Californians visited a park last year and the Delta provides a wide assortment of outdoor opportunities.
“When you add in multiplier effects, recreation contributes nearly $40 billion to California’s economy,” Ray said.
The recommendations are part of the Parks’ “Gateway-Base Camp-Adventure strategy.” In brief, a community on the edge of the Delta serves as a “gateway” to the area, providing information to visitors. A park, resort or town serves as a “base camp,” offering services and facilities. The “adventures” are scenic drives, hiking, angling, hunting, boating and many other activities. In addition the State Parks would be used to educate the public about the environment.
State Parks wants to make full use of Delta lands and waterways. Twenty-five percent of the Delta is public property.
“The Delta can be a playground,” Ray said.
But there are other concerns to consider. Council Chair Phil Isenberg noted that “many of the recreational opportunities are in flood-threatened areas of the Delta that will remain flood threatened.”
Ray responded that the most important recreational assets would need to be identified and protected with the best flood protection that can be afforded, but he also added that it would be a mistake to let these opportunities slip away.
Ray also added that the recommendations would make the best use of existing lands, which would keep the costs down and help preserve the balance between ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability.
While economics is an important part of recreation, the environment is as well, Ray reminded the Council. He added that the Council needs to pay more attention to the benefits of recreation.
“Right now, the latest draft [of the Delta Plan] doesn’t even mention state or local parks,” he said. “Remember that recreation is an important part of the Delta.”
Councilmember Hank Nordhoff agreed, saying, “We have a tendency to gloss over recreation.”
“This discussion provides us a way to change the conversation about the Delta,” Ray said. “Too often, it’s the water buffalos versus the environmental extremists.”
To learn more about the Parks proposal click here.
Dan Ray, Chief of the State Parks planning division, told the Council that his agency advocates making full use of Delta lands and waterways for recreational purposes.