City officials have formally protested California’s decision to close the parking lot at Benicia State Recreation Area on Mondays and Tuesdays as the state winds down activities at parks scheduled to close in July.
The 700-acre Southampton Bay park, along with the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in the city’s downtown, are among 70 California parks marked for closure by July 1 to save money in the midst of a budget crisis.
The two parks are the only state parks in Solano County.
Efforts are underway in the community to take over operation of the Benicia parks, which date to the 1850s, just after California became part of the United States.
In a letter Thursday to Ruth Coleman, director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and Steve Bachman, acting superintendent of the CDPR division that includes the Benicia parks, the city contended that the parking lot closures violate state and federal law guaranteeing access to public lands.
Similar arguments were raised by the U.S. Department of the Interior and California Coastal Commission when the park closures were announced earlier this year, according to the Times-Herald newspaper from the nearby city of Vallejo.
The California parks department in Sacramento declined immediate comment.
“We are looking at the letter,” spokesman Roy Stearns said.
“We are going to review it and figure out what our response will be.”
California cut its parks budget by $11 million this year and plans a $22 million cut for the budget year beginning in July, prompting the decision to close parks statewide.
The Benicia State Recreation Area was given to the state by the family of Patrick Dillon, the California pioneer who bought the property from Mariano Vallejo, the last Mexican governor who also sold the land for the city of Benicia.
The city of Vallejo is named for him.
Benicia was California’s third state capital in 1853 and 1854, and the restored capital building on the city’s main street is the only pre-Sacramento capitol still standing.