Pine Flat closure impacting Easter plans for many

FRESNO, Calif.

The grounds have been closed since last summer. Now, the Federal Government is forcing county leaders to pay for restoration, and it's a job that the county can't afford.

Dodo Payan told Action News, "I can't even process it in my head. It's crazy."

She's a self-proclaimed "park volunteer." Even while she's on vacation, she makes it her job to make the parks look perfect.

Payan explained, "My dad instilled it in me, when you come to a camp you leave it better than when you got there."

Lately, she's focused on nearby Choinumni Park. It's a few miles from Pine Flat and is already filling up for Easter, with people who are just now discovering that they can't camp at their usual spot.

Manuel Sosa is Park Host at Choinumni. He says, "I call them my Pine Flat refugees, and they get a kick out of that."

Pine Flat has been chained off since last summer, when the Army Corps of Engineers told Fresno County to get security, or close it for good.

Fresno County Resources Manager John Thompson said, "We've had quite a few incidents of vandalism in the Pine Flat area this last summer-there were two stabbings in the day use area."

The county couldn't keep up with plumbing thefts in the bathrooms, or the graffiti. The Army Corps terminated its lease, told the county to restore the park to its natural state, or pay for the federal government to do the job.

Thompson explained, "Per the lease agreement if the county does not remove it to the satisfaction of the district engineer then the army corps can do the work and charge the county back."

That bill will cost the county between $80 and $100 thousand and likely means the Federal Government will keep Pine Flat closed indefinitely.

Sosa said, "It's disappointing, it's such a beautiful park, it's a nice park, it's a family park."

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