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Community keeps East Park Reservoir open
Stony Gorge Reservoir: Fig Orchards 1 and 2, Stony Point, Hidden Point and Elk Creek Hill.
East Park Reservoir: Ladoga (east side): Big Oak, Rattlesnake Cove, Other Side, Palomino, Rodeo 1,2 and 3, Sidewinder, Serenity, Last Chance, Sleepy Hallow, Rocky Ridge and Pig Pen.
Stonyford (west side): Currently open due to volunteers.
All recreation sites at Stony Gorge and East Park reservoirs will be open for the Memorial Day weekend: May 23 -28; Independence Day weekend: July 3-8 and Labor Day weekend Aug. 30-Sept. 3
By Monica Vaughan
Volunteers in the Stonyford community are keeping the East Park Reservoir open for recreation after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation closed the lake due to automatic budget cuts from federal sequestration.
Colusa County Supervisor Gary Evans found out East Park Reservoir was closed while driving by on May 10 and called the bureau to confirm.
He asked officials, "What if I get volunteers?"
After aquiring volunteer forms from the bureau the same day, he brought them to Trish Dearman, who owns the Stonyford General Store.
She made copies and within two hours had 28 volunteers signed up to help keep the reservoir open.
"Boy, the people were great," Dearman said.
She said when she found out the Reservoir was closed she "came unglued."
"The whole town was mad because the lake wasn't open," she said.
The bureau hadn't planned on closing areas of Stony Gorge and East Park Reservoir, but officials said they had to after they were unable to replace two park rangers that left their positions.
Federal budget cuts have instituted a hiring freeze.
"If we are unable to keep it up to health and safety standrds, we do not have any choice but to close them until we are able to hire again," said Sheri Harral, public affairs specialist for Northern California Area Office of the bureau.
The work required includes picking up trash, maintaining the bathroom facilities and reporting safety violations to the agency.
A statement released May 8 listing closure areas listed the Stonyford side of East Park Reservoir.
Local residents said they won't allow that to happen.
The Stonyford General Store and other area businesses depends on recreation tourism to keep the doors open. A recent study done by the county put that figure at $1.5 million annually.
"We rely on business in the summer to stay open through the winter," Dearman said.
Those dollars are important given that they've already experienced decreased income from the trail closures caused by the Mill Fire last year.
She said that loss of tourism played a role in Squaw Creek Inn closing in March.
East Park Reservoir is a popular destination throughout the summer, not just for county residents.
Dean Baatrup, of Antioch, who is camping at the Stonyford side this week, said he and friends visit the lake for a week or two at a time, three or four times a year.
"I like everything about it. I don't have to pay, it's quiet and there's good fishing," he said.
He is making an extra effort to clean up around the lake after hearing about the plan to keep the place open.
"We'll do our part to keep it cleaned up. We always do, we'll just do a little more," Baatrup said.
Evans said the volunteer program may be a start for the county to take over recreation at the Reservoir.
"It's an opportunity to get a foot in the door when we do get an agreement in place and take over," he said.
The county is considering entering into a joint power authority with Glenn County to manage recreation of Stony Gorge and East Park Reservoir.
Evans said that "Glenn County has cold feet," but the plan is still a possibility.
Colusa County has an interest in taking over recreation in preparation if Orland Water District takes ownership of the Reservoir.
The Orland Water District has been considering taking ownership for years, but they have no interest in recreation management.
The bureau officials said that the volunteer program, if coordinated correctly, will allow the reservoirs to remain open.
"it's great that the public is rallying and coming together to do some good and we're greatful for that," Harral said.
Evans, Dearman, park Ranger John Cody and a citizen volunteer, Michael Smudde, met on Thursday morning to solidify details for the volunteer plan.
"We pay a lot of taxes, so I'd like to use the lake," Smudde said.