All nine parks scheduled to close Sunday in Mendocino and Lake counties have been spared from the state's budget axe thanks to a multi-faceted effort by park enthusiasts.
"It shows how much people care about their parks," said Carolyne Cathey, executive director of the nonprofit Mendocino Area Parks Association, known as MAPA.
Eight of Mendocino County's 17 state parks were on the hit list. One of Lake County's two state parks was slated for closure.
All have won reprieves, though some are partial and tenuous. They were saved from closure through fundraising efforts, donations from individuals and nonprofit groups and by a variety of organizations — including one Indian tribe — proposing to operate the parks for the state.
"I'm just so proud of everyone in our community for the way they have stepped forward to make sure these parks don't close," Cathey said.
Her organization is working on an agreement to operate Standish-Hickey State Park, located along Highway 101 just 14 miles south of Humboldt County. The Leggett area park has more than 100 campsites on 1,012 acres. The campsites currently are open only to hikers and bicyclists. They'll remain closed to vehicle camping until an agreement is completed, Cathey said.
The planned reopening can't come too soon for Gary Ballard and Diana Ballard-Doll, who own the Peg House, a deli, grocery and gift store near the park. It relies on summer campers to pay its bills.
"I can tell you right now, we're devastated. Our business is way down," Ballard-Doll said.
If it weren't for their bacon cheese burgers being listed among the best in Sunset magazine last year, they'd be "in a world of hurt right now," she said.
"I'm getting really panicked," said Gary Ballard, who belongs to Team Standish, an advocacy group for the park.
He wishes the state would move more quickly on the operations proposal.
Cathey said state officials are doing what they can to speed up the process.
"They're as eager as we are to try to figure out how to do this as soon as possible," she said.
In Lake County, the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association is working on an agreement to keep the Anderson Marsh State Historic Park from being shuttered, officials said.
The park consists of more than 1,000 acres of wetlands and woodlands, a historic ranch house and the remains of a Native American village. It's normally open only on Saturdays and Sundays and has no camping.
It offers hiking, bird watching and tours of the ranch house. It also hosts music and wine events.
Fundraising efforts to benefit the parks are ongoing. The Mendocino Music Festival this year includes an online auction that will benefit MAPA. It begins July 1.
The group's biggest fundraiser is an annual abalone cookoff, held this year on Oct. 6.