After nearly two decades, California has terminated its contract with a non-profit dedicated to the welfare of Castle Crags State Park.

After nearly two decades, California has terminated its contract with a non-profit dedicated to the welfare of Castle Crags State Park.

Effective Dec. 31, 2011, the Department of Parks and Recreation severed its relationship with the Castle Crags Interpretive Association. Northern Butte District Superintendent Marilyn Linkem said the decision was based on finances. “They did a wonderful job,” she said of the CCIA. “The problem is that the park is closing, so there wasn't going to be anyone there to work with them.”

The department announced last May that state park closures were necessary to achieve an $11-million reduction in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Castle Crags appeared on a list as one of 70 locations scheduled to shut down.

Castle Crags Interpretive Association board members Robert Menzies and Tom Johnson say that regardless of the dismissal, the CCIA is not disbanding. They have teamed with Mount Shasta Trail Association and are considering joining with local groups in an effort to reopen the park.

Last month, like-minded parties such as the MSTA and College of the Siskiyous staff met at the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center to discuss options offered by the state. They talked about ways to raise money to take over park operations, but ended the meeting with no plan of action.

Menzies said the CCIA ran a gift store in the park that raised funds for campfire programs and interpretive signage along nature trails. It also paid for Deadwood Conservation Camp inmates to clear dead wood from the forest, which was then sold to the public as firewood.

Johnson said the small store in the park entrance station building generated $7,000-8,000 per year. He said CCIA is “always trying to find things to spend money on.”

He cited as one of the organization's recent contributions donating to bring a class up from Chico State University to inventory park assets acquired during the Civilian Conservation Corps era. The CCC was created by the federal government in the early 1930s to provide jobs during the Great Depression.

Johnson expressed concern that “with our contract not being renewed, our assets are being taken.” Per contract, he stated, most contents of the entrance station gift store go to the state.

The board recently took action to ensure that at least some of its holdings would continue to fund Castle Crags. Said Menzies, “We are transferring assets to the Mount Shasta Trail Association.”

State Parks has said it will continue to work with the Trail Association to maintain the trails after the park closes.

Trails President Joe With said the transfer from CCIA was a practical action. “If the money isn’t committed to some usage, the state gets it,” he explained. “And that has been done. The money is in a special account earmarked for park usage.”

Another means of reopening Castle Crags for a 2012 season is by contracting with  a concessionaire. State Parks is actively searching for such a party by issuing Requests for Proposals, and one has already come in, according to Superintendent Linkem.

“We received a letter of interest from Recreation Resource Management,” she said. “They run the cabins, the camp store and the marina at Burney Falls.”

Those close to the park regard such an operating agreement with guarded optimism. Said CCIA’s Johnson, “Realistically, it’s not going to happen.” He referred to unknown costs, such as dealing with aging underground water pipes in the park.

“I'm definitely interested in seeing the park reopen,” he added. “I just don’t have any firm idea of how that's going to happen.”

Trails President Wirth expressed similar doubts and hopes. “I’m involved, but not hopeful,” he said. Citing a gap between revenues and operating expenses of $50,000, he concluded, “I don’t see how you can make the numbers work.”

Last month, State Parks Cascade Sector Superintendent Heidi Horvitz said that an operating agreement must be in place by March to stop the park from closing permanently on July 1, 2012.

The Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center has stated another meeting to discuss the matter will be held this month. No date has been announced.