In 2012, the Benicia State Parks Association's arduous negotiations with the State avoided closure of the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. The situation was dire—the Capitol is Benicia’s branding, the cornerstone of our identity and the shining centerpiece of our tourism program, as well as a living historic classroom for our students. Although there’s good news regarding state park funding in Governor Brown’s draft proposed budget for 2014/2015, imagine, just for a moment, that current operating agreements were not renewed and our treasured icons at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park (BCSHP) were closed for business and the Capitol windows were fitted for plywood and mothballed, to languish as a blight on our lovely downtown. It could well be our fate unless long-term funding is identified and secured.
In his message January 9, the Governor proposed that state park funding be maintained at the current level through June 30, 2015. There’s even a modest increase of $14 million in added one-time operational funding for state parks. The Benicia Capitol State Historic Park would remain open at current hours, and the City would continue to maintain the bathrooms and the grounds.
Two capitol improvement projects are also underway at the BCSHP: updating the irrigation systems in the park’s gardens, and discussions are in the beginning stages to replace the Fischer-Hanlon house windows. Deferred maintenance at California’s state parks is pegged at $1.3 billion. In the Governor’s proposal, $40 million would be earmarked for park maintenance projects across the state.
There’s good news, too, for the Benicia State Recreation Area—additional access as well as improvements. Benicia, Vallejo and Solano County signed an agreement with the state, whereby the three local agencies would provide $24,000 in funding for BSRA, which the state will match in-kind. The City of Benicia and Solano County each committed $10,000, and the City of Vallejo, $4,000. The money will be used to keep the entrance gate open midweek, allowing seven day a week access instead of four, and improvements would be made to benches, signs and other items. Councilwoman Christina Strawbridge, who is on the committee, says, “The cooperation with the County and Vallejo is great—the BSRA is much more than a Benicia asset, it benefits all parties.” Even if the Governor’s budget is passed, additional funding sources will likely be needed in the future to keep our state parks open long-term.
To donate, join or renew membership, contact the Benicia State Parks Foundation at protectbeniciastateparks.com.