Editor: Alan Gray, NewsBlaze
State Parks takes a giant step backwards in meeting the recreational needs of Sacramento area residents
The new Folsom Lake Recreational Area General Plan erases many of the recreational amenities and capacity planned thirty years ago. The plan also prohibits the ability to provide these facilities in the future.
The first public meeting was last week in Granite Bay and the last public meeting during the comment period is this Tuesday in Folsom from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.. The public comment period ends March 24.
The meeting is at Folsom Middle School at 350 Blue Ravine Road. Unfortunately, it was scheduled the same night as the Folsom City Council meeting.
The following letter was created by Jerry Bernau, for the Folsom Economic Development Corporation. It contains the executive summary of the Folsom Lake General Plan and the Draft Environmental Impact Report.
FEDCorp is opposed to State Parks’ plan. It is imperative that residents, organizations and interested parties attend the public meeting.
Folsom Lake State Recreation Area is one of the most visited recreational areas in the State of California with over 1.5 million average annual visitors per year. Almost thirty years ago, the current general plan was approved and provided for the recreational needs of a growing population for the planning period of 1979 through 1999. Since that time, the six-county population surrounding the lake has increased by 700,000. The new general plan will guide the development and management of recreational facilities and resources through 2025. Over this period, the population is expected to increase by another 900,000 residents.
Not only does the 2008 General Plan fail to provide for the growth in demand for recreational facilities for our residents over the next twenty years, the plan fails to complete the facilities that were deemed necessary by the 1979 General Plan for the twenty year period between 1979 and 1999.
The majority of recreational facilities planned in 1979 have not been built even though the 1979 General Plan recommended that 70% of the Folsom Lake improvements and 80% of the Lake Natoma improvements be made by 1990. As a result, there is a severe shortage of facilities and visitor capacity at the recreational area.
1. There is a five to nine year waiting list for boats slips. The demand is higher than any other marina facility in the region. For California’s 15 largest reservoirs, Folsom ranks 12th for 50 mile population per slip and 9th for 100 mile population per slip.
2. During peak season, the largest recreational facilities at Folsom Lake; Granite Bay, Beals Point and Browns Ravine, reach capacity at midday on the week-ends.
3. Inadequate parking facilities cause traffic backs-ups along entrance roads, major access routes and local streets. On Douglas Boulevard in Granite Bay, traffic can back up all the way to Folsom-Auburn Road causing delays, illegal parking, pedestrian hazards and noise. Similar traffic congestion occurs at other facilities.
4. There are only 176 family campsites at Folsom Lake at two locations. During the peak season, full capacity is often reached on week-ends at all three locations. The average number of campsites at California’s fifteen largest reservoirs is 533 at an average of 7.8 locations. The Folsom SRA ranks 14th out of fifteen for both campsites per shore mile and for campsites per 1,000 acres and 15th out of fifteen for 50-mile population per campsite and 100 mile population per campsite.
1979 General Plan
The 1979 General Plan (as amended 7/88, 12/88 and 1/96) calls for increases in all facilities during the twenty year planning horizon ending in 1999. Thirty years later, additions to the following recreational capacity are substantially incomplete.
1. New parking spaces were planned to more than double from 3,125 spaces to 6,520 spaces. Thirty years later, only 1,830 spaces were added.
2. Campsites (auto, bicycle and boat) were planned to more than double from 160 to 370. Today, only 176 campsites exist (including 3 group campsites).
3. A new 200 slip marina was to be added at Westshore and 100 additional slips at Brown’s Ravine. Since 1979, there is still only one marina and, instead of 300 slips, only 132 were added.
4. A hiking/equestrian trail was to be completed around Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma. Thirty years later, the trails have yet to be completed.
5. Many other facilities including picnic areas, docks, equestrian and bicycle staging areas and trail camps, showers, RV stations and boat rentals were also planned but never completed.
2008 General Plan (State Parks’ Preferred Alternative-Alt. 2)
Over the next 20 years, State Park’s Preferred Alternative provides less visitor capacity than what was planned for the previous planning period between 1979 and 1999.
1. Parking spaces may increase by only 700 spaces. This is 1,645 spaces less than what was planned to be completed by 1999.
2. Campsites may increase by 50 to 100 but the net increase will be less when group camping is relocated from Negro Bar to Beals Point reducing a portion of the existing family camping. Even without counting the reduction at Beals Point, the total campsites planned will be 74-124 less than those planned to be developed thirty years ago.
3. The second 200 slip marina and related facilities planned at Westshore is eliminated even though the current general plan states that it would be less costly and provide low water access. It also states that Westshore is a better alternative to expanding Browns Ravine beyond 700 slips because there would be less adverse environmental impacts, better distribution of boats on the lake and less congestion.
4. Under the Preferred Alternative, slips may increase at Browns Ravine by 260-290 for a total of 945-975. This would equal the total slips for two marinas planned thirty years ago. However, to make room for these additional slips, the 175 dry storage boat spaces at Browns Ravine will be eliminated leaving a net gain of only 85-115 boat slips and/or spaces.
5. The 1979 General Plan boat capacity formula for Folsom Lake is based on 1 boat per 16 water surface acres. The 2008 Preferred Alternative capacity formula arbitrarily reduces the boat capacity on the middle North and South Forks by an average of 50% and reduces the capacity on the upper North and South Forks by an average of 80%.
6. The plan will eliminate approximately a mile of prime water skiing area between Rattlesnake Bar and Mormon Ravine on the North Fork of Folsom Lake by expanding the 5 mph restriction in that area.
7. The entire Folsom Lake Recreational Area will be divided into four management zones (Recreation, Conservation, Preservation and Administration) that will dictate management and the use of these areas. Surprisingly, only 20% of the 8,458 acres of land surrounding the lakes will be designated as Recreation. Comprising 74% of the land area, Conservation zones will allow only passive recreational activities and, in most cases, trails will be the only improvement.
8. The Preferred Alternative eliminates facilities that were planned in 1979 at Westshore/Mooney Cove, New York Creek and Observation Point including a marina, launch ramp, (2) swim beaches, (2) snack bars, 550 parking spaces, 80 campsites, (3) docks, visitor center, lake view restaurant, viewing deck, (3) restrooms, an excursion ferry and a RV sanitation station. No alternative locations or facilities are planned.
9. Boarding at the Shadow Glenn equestrian facility at Mississippi Bar will be eliminated and ultimately phased out. All the benefits of this equestrian facility will be lost and users will be required to trailer their horses to the recreational area.
10. Under the plan, pedestrian, equestrian and bicycle access from the private property that borders the lake will be prohibited forcing neighboring property owners to drive to the limited and over capacity public access points.
11. Gas engines, including trolling motors, on Lake Natoma will be eliminated. A planned boat dock and a lakeshore riding/hiking trail will be eliminated at the Folsom Powerhouse.
12. Fire will be used as the primary tool to manage vegetation. The current plan prescribes fire only in the two Chaparral units. There appears to be little thought given to the risk to the adjacent private property and impacts to the area’s air quality and ozone.
13. Planting that will block the view into and out of the recreation area to the adjacent public and private developed properties is a strategy that is also recommended in the 2008 General Plan.
In the Preferred Alternative, these are but a few of the reductions in the facilities and changes to management of this critically important recreational area.
Other General Plan Alternatives
There are three other alternatives presented. Alternative 1 is called the “No Action/No Project” alternative and leaves the current 1979 General Plan in place. Alternative 3 is referred to as the “Maximize Recreation Opportunities” but actually contains less facilities and capacity than the current general plan (Alternative 1). Alternative 4 is called “Increase Protection and Restoration of Natural/Cultural Resources” and restricts recreational use beyond Alternative 2 and even eliminates current facilities and capacity.
With substantial past and future population growth, documented demand and a shortage of recreational facilities, it is irresponsible for State Parks to spend six years developing a General Plan and DEIR with a preferred alternative that does not even complete the facilities that it determined were needed between 1979 and 1999. After reading the comments from the limited public outreach, it is also obvious that State Parks has ignored this input which requests further development and enhancement of recreational facilities and capacity at the Folsom Lake SRA.
Since 70% of the 1.5 million annual visitors to the Folsom Lake SRA are residents of Sacramento, Placer and El Dorado counties and recreation has become such an important component to our quality of life, I respectfully request that our state, county and local officials work with State Parks to extend the comment period until such time as the public and their elected leaders can be adequately informed and actively engaged in the process.
Unlike the 1979 General Plan, the content of the proposed general plan and DEIR is poorly organized, lacks a clear summary of alternatives and makes it impossible to compare previously planned, existing and proposed facilities and improvements. If public outreach and disclosure is the intent of our environmental disclosure laws, this document fails miserably.
Lastly, if State Parks is incapable of providing adequate recreational facilities because of their budget constraints, it may be time for the local jurisdictions that surround the recreational area to negotiate a lease(s) directly with the Bureau of Reclamation to improve, manage and maintain the area. State Parks’ fifty year lease with the Bureau expired in 2006 and has yet to be renewed. To maximize public access and benefit, it is common that other agencies manage all or a portion of the recreational facilities at California’s reservoirs. In fact, only 25-30% of the recreational facilities at California’s fifteen largest reservoirs are managed by State Parks, other agencies include the U.S. Forest Service, Monterrey County Parks Department, Don Pedro Recreation Agency and others.
Financially, user fees provide a substantial revenue source for improving and maintaining the recreational facilities at Folsom Lake SRA. In fact in 2004/2005 fiscal year, user fee revenue from Folsom Point, Beals Point and Granite Bay totaled $2,192,938. Concession rental revenue added another $342,101. Where is the money going? It does not appear that it is being invested in new facilities or even maintenance of the existing ones. Based on the current demand and severe shortage of facilities, it would seem logical that new facilities could be developed and supported from user fees.
At a time when hundreds of acres are being disturbed and millions of cubic yards of material are being moved for flood control work, there is a rare opportunity to plan, improve, upgrade and add facilities at a lower cost and with little or no additional environmental impact.
While the Sacramento MSA may not be the least expensive place to live and work, we have an incredible quality of life that is enhanced by our access to this wonderful 20,000 acre Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma recreational area. Let’s continue to provide public access for our growing population.
Folsom Economic Development Corporation
Jeremy G. Bernau
Information contained in this letter was derived from the following state and federal documents: 1979 General Plan, as amended in July 1988, December 1988 and January 1996, the 2008 General Plan and DEIR, the Folsom Dam Safety and Flood Damage Reduction EIS/EIR and the Comparative Inventory of Recreation Facilities at California’s Largest Reservoirs, 2000.