A bus full of excited kids from Ballico Middle School arrived at McConnell State Recreation Area Friday for a field trip. But this could be one of their last visits here.
An estimated 40 thousand people visit this park in Ballico and the Hatfield State Recreation Area in Hilmar each year to fish, swim, and camp along the Merced River. But both are among the 70 state parks scheduled to close this summer because of budget cuts.
The Delhi Municipal Advisory Council and East Merced Resource Conservation District are now working to keep the two parks open. If they can raise $65 thousand, the state has agreed to match that amount to keep them from shutting down. The groups don't have much time. They need to raise the money by the end of the month, or both parks could close July 1st.
Supporters are now asking residents, businesses, and local government agencies to contribute. Cindy Lashbrook has a farm right next to the river. She says saving the parks is a good investment because of the affordable family fun they offer, and the problems they prevent. "If this is basically empty and just gated it could definitely be a magnet for crime."
Now she and others who enjoy spending time here hope they can raise the money they need before time runs out.