Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, the 4,000-acre gem east of Kenwood, appears to have avoided the budget ax and will remain open past a July 1 deadline when dozens of parks statewide are slated to shut down.
A coalition of Sonoma County nonprofit groups announced Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with California State Parks to take over operations at Sugarloaf and fully reopen the park to the public on June 1, in time for the summer vacation and camping season.
The agreement still requires approval from Parks Director Ruth Coleman and from the Department of General Services. Such approvals have been formalities in similar situations.
In addition to the tentative operating agreement, “Team Sugarloaf” also was awarded a $54,000 grant from the California State Parks Foundation.
“We're really excited to bring community resources together with state parks to make it a better place,” said Richard Dale, executive director of the Sonoma Ecology Center, which took the lead in negotiating with the state.
A spokesman for the parks department could not immediately be reached Wednesday.
Dale said the nonprofit groups plan to expand interpretive programs at Sugarloaf and to operate a summer camp. He said there are also opportunities to develop more trails and better maintain those that already are in use.
The gates will never close, he said. And a camp manager will be on site around the clock.
Dale said the park's annual operating budget will be around $235,000, an amount the group is planning to raise through fees and community fundraising.
The cost to camp overnight will increase to $35 and new machines will be installed at the park's entrances to collect day-use fees, which will remain $8, Dale said.
The park's new management also plans to enforce a new ban on alcohol in the campground that Dale said is intended to make the site more “family-friendly.” The park has 47 campsites.