Thursday, 18 July 2024


Anderson Marsh is among 220 state parks the governor is proposing to close to address the state budget. Courtesy photo.



LAKE COUNTY – A year after local residents fought a proposal to close Lake County's two parks, one local state park once again is facing closure as part of a massive plan that would gut the state parks system.

Last year, Anderson Marsh and Clear Lake State Park were among 48 parks Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed to close to address the state budget.

Now, he's upped the ante. In a startling proposal contained in his May budget revise, Schwarzenegger proposes to close 220 of the state's 279 parks, including Anderson Marsh State Historic Park.

Gae Henry, secretary of the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association Board of Directors, called the proposal “a real kick in the stomach” after efforts to keep the park open and accessible through volunteer efforts. Anderson Marsh is visited by 43,499 people each year, generating $2,060 in revenue, according to the California State Parks Foundation.

Schwarzenegger proposes to eliminate general fund support for the state parks system in an effort to save $143 million.

The ramifications could be huge. Every park in the Lake Tahoe area would be shuttered, as would every park that's home to the state's famed redwoods, said Traci Verardo-Torres, legislative advocate for the California State Parks Foundation.

Most North Coast parks would be closed – including virtually every park north of Mendocino, Verardo-Torres said.

The popular MacKerricher State Park and Jug Handle in Fort Bragg, the Mendocino Headlands, Mount Tamalpais and Tomales Bay in the Marin District, and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park in Napa County are on the closure list.

“We are treating this as a very serious proposal and a significant threat to our state park system,” said Verardo-Torres.

North Coast Sen. Patricia Wiggins said Friday that, given voters' rejection of the five propositions on May 19, the state “will almost certainly be forced to make deeper cuts than if those measures had passed.”

What's less certain, said Wiggins, is whether the state will have to make cuts on the order that the governor has proposed, with some people feeling that the governor's proposals amount to a “a doomsday budget designed to force Democrats and Republicans to come to an agreement.”

“We need to keep all options on the table, and we need to be honest in telling people that cuts, including cuts to parks, aren't off the table by any means,” said Wiggins. “But do we need to cut from our parks to the extent to which the governor has proposed? I would hope that, in working toward a budget agreement, we find suitable alternatives that allow us to minimize closures and protect our state parks to the fullest extent possible.”

Verardo-Torres said no part of the state was spared in the proposed park closures, although Orange County's many beaches – which generate significant amounts of revenue – are being spared.

The proposal, she added, “will touch virtually every Californian.”

Criteria for closures and potential fallout

Roy Stearns, spokesman for the California State Parks Department, said the agency gathered all of its superintendents in one room and asked them which parks have resources outside of general fund money. They also identified those parks which can be self-sufficient in revenue if fees are raised and costs are lowered.

The recently released lists of parks to remain open and those to be closed were arrived at based on those discussions, Stearns said.

Clear Lake State Park, he said, is one of 10 parks across the state funded largely by boating gas taxes and reimbursements, he said.

According to a report issued last year by the California State Parks Foundation, Clear Lake State Park has 100,166 visitors annually, with revenue of $332,782.

Other parks proposed to stay open are either funded through self-generated revenue, off-highway motor vehicle gas taxes and fees, locally operated units of the state park system and parks with other concessions likely to continue operations – such as the series of private shops and restaurants that sustain operation on the Malibu Pier, according to Stearns.


If all of the $145 million in general fund support for the state parks was eliminated over the two-year period as proposed, Stearns said it would result in the need to close the 220 parks and lay off between 1,500 and 2,000 state park employees.

In addition, park water treatment and sewage plants would be closed, bathrooms locked up, electricity turned off and gates put down, said Stearns, with the properties put into caretaker status in order to preserve them.

Verardo-Torres raised the issue of closed parklands becoming susceptible to criminal activity; illegal marijuana cultivation already is a problem on public lands, she said.

Stearns said there currently are no talks about selling off parklands. “We are not about to want to go down that road unless forced to go down it,” said Stearns, calling it a very small, short-term fix that wouldn't really cure the state's budget problems.

Keeping parks open, said Stearns, would support the state more than closing them.

Verardo-Torres said the governor hasn't studied the economic fallout, which is what the foundation is now in the process of doing. They don't yet have an economic impact number, but she said every dollar spent at a state park is known to have $2.35 worth of impact in the local economy.

While Schwarzenegger said the proposal will save $143 million, the damage to the state's tourism and economy hasn't been calculated. “That's one of the things that the State Parks Foundation thinks is a real flaw for this proposal,” Verardo-Torres said.

She said that the economic downturn has hurt local governments as much as the state government, and it seems unlikely that many local jurisdictions will attempt to take over running state parklands. “Clearly there are no easy solutions out there.”

It also will be a blow to culture and education. Henry said the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association just completed a series of field trips – which it also funded – with activities for local third graders.

She said she's not sure what the group will do next, but since they have largely been running the park through volunteer labor, she said they'll likely question if they could keep the park open that way. The proposal also would jeopardize their fall bluegrass festival event.

Verardo-Torres said state parks are a place of happy memories for many people, as well as places that preserve history and nature. “That's why we all need to fight it,” she said of the proposal.

Time is short to take action

Parks supporters have a short amount of time in which to organize in order to have the state Legislature hear their concerns.

Verardo-Torres said a state legislative budget conference committee meeting on Tuesday, June 2, will be the only opportunity for public comment to the Legislature on the parks proposal, which she said requires legislative action.

She said the parks foundation is trying to organize groups to get to Sacramento or, in lieu of that, to contact their state legislators.

Wiggins can be contacted at her State Capitol office, State Capitol, Room 4081, Sacramento, CA 95814, telephone 916-651-4002, fax 916-323-6958; or at her Ukiah district office, 200 South School St., P.O. Box 785, Ukiah, CA 95482, telephone 707-468-8914, fax 707-468-8931.

Assemblyman Wes Chesbro can be reached at his State Capitol office, P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0001, telephone 916-319-2001, fax 916-319-2101; or at his Lake and Mendocino district office, 311 N. State St., Ukiah, CA 95482, telephone 707-463-5770, fax 707-463-5773.

The foundation also has its Save Our State Parks (SOS) Campaign back online at; there, park supporters can find out how to take action.

More information also is available at the California State Parks Foundation's Web site, .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

This tobiano mare is now up for adoption at Lake County Animal Care & Control. Courtesy photo.


LAKEPORT – Animal Care and Control reported this week that it has another horse that's come into its care that needs a good home.

Bill Davidson, Animal Care and Control's deputy director, said a 10-year-old tobiano paint mare has been surrendered to the agency.

Davidson said the mare first came to Animal Care and Control's attention after the agency received a call from the US Forest Service regarding a loose horse.

He said she was taken for vet care off of Elk Mountain Road due to a nasty leg wound.

The mare previously was owned by a woman from Oregon who came to Lake County and was new to horse ownership. Because the woman forfeited ownership, Davidson said Animal Care and Control isn't seeking legal action against her at this time.

“The vet reports have come back very positive and she will most definitely be sound and ridable,” he said.

With the mare's wound now mostly healed, Animal Care and Control wants to find her a good home, Davidson said.

Horse lovers can submit sealed bids, with the minimum bid set at $250. Davidson said bids will be accepted through July 12.

He said the horse is nice, manageable and believed to be broken, although she's best to go with someone who has knowledge of horses.

An Arab gelding Animal Care & Control previously had up for adoption had no local bids but was taken by a horse rescue group in Petaluma, Davidson said.

For more information, call Lake County Animal Care and Control, 707-263-0278.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Eric Von Reneger climbs down the hill to his pickup truck on Tuesday, May 26, 2009. Photo by John Jensen.

LUCERNE – No one was injured on Tuesday when a pickup truck traveled down a hill and crashed into a retaining wall in a Lucerne neighborhood.

Shortly before 2 p.m. Eric Von Reneger parked his 1970s Dodge pickup on Logan Drive at Foothill Drive.

Von Reneger said he turned the vehicle off and got out. He said he thinks the truck popped out of first gear and then rolled across a nearby property, damaging a retaining wall and crossing a neighbor's driveway.

It then went down the adjacent hillside, rolling over onto its side and coming to a stop against another retaining wall, which prevented the pickup from hitting a nearby home.

Northshore Fire, the Lake County Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol responded. No injuries were reported, and Von Reneger's pickup was pulled up the hill and towed from the scene.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



California Highway Patrol Officer Dallas Richey looks over the scene on Logan Avenue, where Eric Von Reneger's pickup went down a hill and hit a retaining wall on Tuesday, May 26, 2009. Photo by John Jensen.

UPPER LAKE – Two young girls are in trouble after they allegedly set a fire at their school on Thursday.

The fire was reported at about 12:40 p.m. Thursday at Upper Lake Elementary School on Second Street, according to a report for Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Northshore Fire and Lakeport Fire Protection District personnel were dispatched to the reported structure fire along with sheriff's deputies, who Bauman said were sent to assist with evacuation if it was needed.

While firefighters attacked a fully involved girls bathroom on the south side of the school, deputies learned from school officials that they had two girls, an 11-year-old and a 12-year-old – both from Nice – detained, said Bauman.

The two girls allegedly had been seen by other students lighting pieces of paper inside the bathroom shortly before the fire broke out, Bauman reported.

When deputies questioned the two girls, they learned they had both been playing with a lighter in the bathroom, lighting small pieces of paper on fire, said Bauman.

At one point, one of the girls apparently lit the paper towels in a wall dispenser on fire, threw water on the flames, and then left the bathroom thinking they had extinguished the fire, according to the report.

Fire personnel were on scene for more than an hour extinguishing the bathroom and surrounding structure, Bauman said.

According to school officials, the extent of damage is believed to be between $100,000 and $150,000.

Bauman said both girls were issued citations for felony arson and released to the parents.

He said their cases will be reviewed and adjudicated through the Lake County Probation Department.

Sutter Lakeside Hospital's new chief administrative officer, Siri Nelson. Courtesy photo.

LAKEPORT – Sutter Lakeside Hospital is welcoming its new chief administrative officer, who arrived this month from Amador County.

Siri Nelson will take the helm of the hospital, which she joined on May 4. Avery Schlesenberg served as interim administrator for several months before Nelson's arrival.

In addition to welcoming Ms. Nelson to her new role with Sutter Lakeside, we want to thank Avery Schlesenberg for his outstanding leadership of our hospital as Interim Administrator over the past several months.

“I’m very happy to be a part of the Sutter Lakeside family,” said Nelson. “The community has been very welcoming to me and my family. I love being in a small town and am looking forward to getting to know all of the great things Lake County has to offer.”

Nelson comes to Sutter Lakeside Hospital from the Sacramento Sierra Region of Sutter Health where she most recently has been serving as chief financial officer for Sutter Amador Hospital.

During her time there, Nelson served in a leadership role affecting a significant financial turnaround for the hospital, helped to broaden its community benefit program, and worked collaboratively with physicians and staff to achieve even stronger employee and patient satisfaction scores.

“Sutter Lakeside is a very strong organization with a demonstrated commitment to the community, providing clinical excellence and exceptional patient service,” said Nelson. “My goal is to work with the amazing team here to take this organization to the next level. Our focus has always been, and will continue to be, on the patients we serve: Striving to provide excellent care with a small town feel.”

Prior to joining Sutter Lakeside and Sutter Amador, Nelson served as finance director for the San Joaquin County Health Care Services Agency and regional director of finance for St. Joseph’s Regional Health System in Stockton.

She began her career in health care at Sutter-affiliated Novato Community Hospital and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from California State University, Chico, and a master’s degree in health administration from the University of Southern California.

Nelson is married to husband Steve and has four children – all boys, ages 6, 7, 18 and 20. The family is in the midst of selling their Jackson home to relocate to Lake County.

In her spare time, Nelson enjoys boating, playing in the garden and attending her children’s go-kart and midget races. Son Bill, 20, is racing is Midget this year while 7-year-old Erik will start his second year of outlaw go-kart racing and Koby, 6, is just itching to get started. Her son, Matt, 18, will get to know the community this summer before leaving to start college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this fall.

She said her husband is looking forward to exploring one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country, and all of her sons love the water and enjoy boating and fishing.

A staffer tries to secure the equipment at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa's Konocti Field Amphitheater on Saturday, May 23, 2009. Photo by Dianna Brooks.




KELSEYVILLE – A weekend concert at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa was canceled after an equipment problem caused safety concerns.

The Memorial Day weekend “Can't Stop Rockin'” show – featuring REO Speedwagon, Styx and 38 Special – didn't really get a chance to start rocking Saturday, when overhead lighting equipment began to collapse in the resort's 5,000-seat outdoor Konocti Field Amphitheater.

Konocti Harbor President and General Manager Greg Bennett did not return calls from Lake County News seeking comment.

Eyewitnesses related to Lake County News that they saw a piece of equipment falling off of the lighting structure above the stage, and then the musicians were rushed off.

Lower Lake resident Dianna Brooks, who was at the resort with her husband for the concert, arrived after the equipment issue occurred.

She said they waited two hours – until around 8 p.m. – before the announcement was made that the concert was canceled.

Brooks said security guards had cordoned off a portion of the amphitheater so that no one could sit within about 50 to 75 feet of the stage.

Brooks said gaffers were intermittently going up and down the scaffolding with large rolls of yellow banding to secure the center lighting system so it would not fall down any further.

She said the resort told ticket holders they would receive refunds beginning Tuesday.

The Konocti Harbor Web site,, lists the next concert in the outdoor amphitheater on July 4, when 3 Doors Down will give a holiday performance followed by fireworks.



Concert goers waited for about two hours at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa's Konocti Field Amphitheater on Saturday, May 23, 2009, before the event was canceled. Photo by Dianna Brooks.

MIDDLETOWN – A fire that broke out Thursday morning in a construction area at Middletown High School was quickly contained, according to the district's superintendent.

The fire was reported shortly before 11 a.m., according to Middletown Unified School District Superintendent Korby Olson.

Olson said construction has been under way all year in the main wing of the high school, in what's referred to as “Building A.”

A number of skylights were moved by the contractor to the roof area in preparation for installation. Although they were still boxed, Olson said the skylights somehow acted as magnifying glasses and caused their cardboard boxes to catch on fire.

“We could see the smoke when we headed over there,” said Olson. “We thought it was in the old gym, which would not have been a good thing.”

Olson said the high school was evacuated and students waited while firefighters cleared the area. Within about 40 minutes students were back in classes.

He said there may some minor water damage resulting from firefighting efforts, with some patching on the roofs also needed.

The worst thing, potentially, is a potential delay in the construction project, which Olson said is supposed to be completed July 15.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

LAKE COUNTY – A new report shows that Lakeport led Clearlake and the county in population growth in 2008.

The California Department of Finance's report on state population numbers shows that 409,000 residents came to California in 2008, raising the state's population to 38,293,000 as of Jan. 1 of this year.

Of California's 480 cities, 453 showed populations gains, five experienced no change and 20 lost population, according to the report.

In Lake County, the county as a whole posted a modest population gain in 2008 of 0.3 percent, with population rising from 63,805 to 64,025.

Outside of the incorporated areas of Lakeport and Clearlake, population actually declined by 0.2, dropping from 44,592 to 44,489, according to the report.

Lakeport posted the largest growth numbers in the county, with the number of residents rising from 5,024 to 5,146, for a 2.4 percent increase.

In Clearlake, the percentage population growth was smaller, at 1.4 percent. In 2008 the city's number of residents grew from 14,189 to 14,390.

Other California population facts from the report:

• The city of Los Angeles, California's largest city, has reached a population of 4,065,585. Los Angeles grew by over 43,000 persons during the year.

• San Diego, the state's second-largest city, has a population of 1,353,993 and added over 20,000 persons in 2008.

• The city of San Jose exceeded 1 million in population in 2008, adding 21,585 new residents during the year to reach 1,006,892, making it the 10th city in the United States to exceed 1 million persons.

• The city of Riverside became the 12th California city to exceed 300,000 (it's current population is 300,430).

• Fresno has replaced Long Beach as the state's fifth largest city. Fresno was estimated to have 495,913 residents, while Long Beach came in with a population of 492,682.

• There are now 69 cities in California with a population exceeding 100,000.

• Sand City in Monterey County (population 312) was the state's fastest growing city on a percentage basis, increasing by 4.7 percent. The next four fastest growing cities were Albany in Alameda County (4.5 percent), Calipatria in Imperial County (4.5 percent), Tehachapi in Kern County (4.4 percent), and Woodlake in Tulare County (4.1 percent).

• The biggest numeric increases typically occurred in some of the state's largest cities – Los Angeles (43,135), San Jose (21,585), San Diego (20,376), Fresno (10,578) and San Francisco (10,195).

• Since the April 1, 2000 census, the top four fastest growing California cities all have more than doubled in size, including Lincoln in Placer County (258 percent), Beaumont and Murrieta in Riverside County (185 percent and 127 percent respectively), and Brentwood in Contra Costa County (123 percent).

• Two new incorporations occurred in Riverside County in 2008: Wildomar and Menifee.

• California's housing growth continued a recent trend by declining once again from the previous year. Since peaking in 2005, when the state was estimated to have added 197,707 new housing units, there has been a steady reduction in residential construction. In 2006, the state added 172,604 units; in 2007, there were 131,912 units built, then last year only 86,745 were constructed – the smallest change since 1998.

• The 2008 relocation of California's prison population among various facilities within California, and to other states, resulted in the overall number of incarcerated persons declining for the second year in a row, down by 5,081 to 185,153 inmates statewide. The largest prison declines occurred in Vacaville (-1,033) in Solano County, Avenal (-807) in Kings County, Chino (-571) in San Bernardino County and Blythe (-495) in Riverside County. Tehachapi (+273) in Kern County, Ione (+259) in Amador County, and Victorville (+187) in San Bernardino County gained prison population.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

LAKE COUNTY – Warm spring weather with blue skies and a few clouds are forecast for Lake County this weekend, but in the higher elevations, particularly over Mendocino National Forest, a chance of afternoon thunderstorms are a possibility and there's a chance of rain next week.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Sacramento predicts that Friday the high temperature will be in the mid-80s, and will cool off a few degrees on Saturday and Sunday to around 80 degrees, with low temperatures in the mid- to low-50s.

However, NWS states that afternoon thunderstorms are a possibility in the afternoons through the weekend over the higher elevations, especially the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Thunderheads have been seen forming in the afternoon since Wednesday over the Mayacama Mountain Range to the west, although no lightning strikes have been reported by, a public, large scale and community-based lightning detection network.

After the weekend, NWS is forecasting a slight chance of rain showers beginning Monday night through Thursday in Lake County, with the greatest chance of precipitation on Wednesday.

Daytime highs Monday through Thursday will be in the upper 70s and lows around 50 according to the NWS.

For more weather information, visit the forecast for Lake County weather on our home page.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Malcolm Safa Brown was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Tuesday, May 26, 2009. Lake County Jail photo.

LAKE COUNTY – A Graton man has been sentenced to state prison for his part in a home invasion last fall.

On Tuesday, Malcolm Safa Brown, 41, was sentenced to 16 years in prison by Judge Arthur Mann, according to the Lake County District Attorney's Office.

On April 20 Brown had pleaded guilty to charges of first degree burglary, assault with a firearm as an aider and abettor, and also admitted to enhancements for suffering a prior “strike” conviction and a prior prison term, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who prosecuted the case. The prior “strike” conviction was for a first degree burglary conviction in 1998.

Last Nov. 13, Brown and transient Charles William Burk, 31, were alleged to have broken into a home on Noble Ranch Road in Hidden Valley Lake before leading local authorities on a day-long search in the gated community, as Lake County News has reported.

Brown and Burk – who were using methamphetamine at the time – went to the home of Burk's aunt, uncle and cousin, allegedly to commit a home invasion theft, according to investigative reports.

The men entered the house while the family was sleeping, the reports noted. Brown is alleged to have begun hitting a 22-year-old Donald Merrill Jr. in the head with a wooden stool while Burk grabbed a .22-caliber rifle and tried to shoot his 52-year-old uncle, Donald Merrill Sr.

After they were overpowered by the victims, Brown and Burk fled the scene in a white pickup truck. Burk, who was driving, is alleged to have intentionally rammed a sheriff’s patrol vehicle being driven by Deputy Brian Smith as they attempted to make their getaway, Hinchcliff said.

The men then drove through a private gate, crashed into a tree, and split up in an effort to evade officers. Burk is believed to have attempted to break into a nearby home after the crash, but the homeowner was able to prevent him from getting in the door.

The ensuing 11-hour search – which included several agencies – involved authorities using ground patrol and a Sonoma County Sheriff's Office helicopter to look for the men in the Hidden Valley Lake subdivision.

Burk was later found hiding under the exterior deck of a Stonegate Road home. Before his capture he had broken into a home on Raven Hill Road, stole clothes and shaved his head in an effort to change his appearance.

Brown was arrested a short time later in a field near Highway 29 and Arabian Lane, according to the original sheriff's report.

Mann ordered Brown, who was represented by defense attorney William Conwell, to pay a $3,200 restitution fine. Because of the “strike,” Hinchcliff said Brown will have to serve at least 80 percent of the 16-year sentence, rather than the usual 50 percent.

Hinchcliff said Brown will be transported to San Quentin Prison for processing to determine where he will serve out the remainder of his prison sentence.

Charges are still pending against Burk in the case, Hinchcliff said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

CLEARLAKE – The county will host a grand opening for the Clearlake Oaks Plaza this Friday, May 29.

In the 1920s “The Plaza” was a gathering place for all with outdoor dances, music and other events. In the 1990s “The Plaza” fell into disrepair and a large part of history for Clearlake Oaks was covered with pavement and used as a parking lot.

On Friday, the County of Lake and the Lake County Redevelopment Agency will celebrate the grand opening of the newly resurrected Clearlake Oaks Plaza.

The grand opening event will begin at 1 p.m. with an acoustical guitar performance by Dave Hendrick, special guest speakers including Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing, Pastor Ken Young, Margaret Medeiros of the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association, other dignitaries and a vocal performance by the United Methodist Community Church Choir.

Join the county of Lake and the Lake County Redevelopment Agency on Friday to celebrate The Plaza's grand opening and be a part of the new history of Clearlake Oaks.

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