19 California state parks remain closed after recent storms
Big Basin Redwoods State Park, CA - While most of the attention from California's recent storms has been focused on the impact to residents and businesses, the state parks system was also hard hit.
As of Friday 19 state parks remain fully closed and another 36 are partially closed.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California’s oldest state park, is just one of the fully closed parks.
What happened at the state park during the recent storms is a microcosm of what parks officials are dealing with all across the region.
Two huge redwood trees fell over a footbridge that leads to some of the most popular trails inside the park.
Supervising park ranger Andrew Dobbs said, at nearly 20,000 acres, there hasn't been a way for crews to get into the backcountry to assess all the damage.
"This is one of the main routes to get into the backcountry of Big Basin where so many people love to hike and experience the beauty of the redwoods," Dobbs said.
It's not just the trails and visitor areas of the park that have been hit hard.
The popular Sempervirens Falls used to have a viewing deck, but that was destroyed by the CZU complex fire in 2020.
Now the big storms of 2023 have washed out part of the road overlooking the falls simply making it too dangerous to allow visitors in the park for the time being.
"So it takes rangers and maintenance staff and roads and trails crews and heavy equipment operators to all come together, to perform an assessment of the damage that has occurred and then come up with a plan to mitigate and make those hazards safe," Dobbs said.
Similar scenarios of damage — and work to be done — can be seen at parks up and down the state.
Seacliff State Beach in Santa Cruz County is one of the hardest hit of the coastal parks.
At Sue Meg State Park, north of Eureka, a huge tree came down across a road to one of the main campgrounds.
To the south, just off Interstate 5 near the Grapevine, the Hungry Valley State Vehicle Recreation Area suffered severe flooding damage. At Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, a footbridge was near nearly destroyed by a falling tree.
Up and down the state parks officials have their hands full and are trying to get to as many of the damaged areas as fast as they can.
"The fact that we are dealing with so much significant storm damage throughout the state and throughout multiple park units in our area here in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, that just hinders our abilities to get into these parks to makes these parks safe and welcome visitors back," Dobbs said.
At this point there are no firm timelines on the reopening the 19 shuttered state parks. Park officials said that damage assessments and repair work are being done as quickly and safely as possible.
The California State Parks released the following statement on the storm-related closures: "Storm cleanup is still underway at many of the impacted state parks. As such, a complete assessment of the impacts from the winter storms is not available. As of February 2, over 50 of the parks that were closed have been re-opened for public use. While 19 parks remain fully closed and 36 partially closed state park maintenance crews remain committed to clean-up efforts. Park units will be reopened based on safety and weather conditions."