Cabinization of our parks

It was love at first sight when we arrived at Agua Caliente County Park for the first time in November 2010.  We were thrilled that this park now allowed dogs and we scouted out the best site for our style of camping away from crowds.  We didn’t mind that the sites did not have Wi-Fi or cell phone reception without using special antennas or boosters.  This site was just big enough for our trailer and was nestled near mountains and had gorgeous vista views.

DSC_0125 Our 1st Agua Caliente site

DSC_0007 Vista view from our site

This quickly became our favorite desert camping site, so you can imagine our shock last fall to learn that we could not reserve this site or any of the other eleven RV sites on this southeast loop of the park because cabins were about to be built there!

DSC_0041 SE loop with 12 RV sites

So we reserved an alternative site and returned to Agua Caliente Regional Park last October and began documenting the “progress” of cabins replacing RV sites.  Our favorite site had already been leveled and fenced in.*

DSC_0045 Our site fenced in

By January, the foundations were in place for seven Agua Caliente cabins that the Annual Parks Improvement Plan estimated will cost $500,000.

DSC_0067 Agua Caliente cabin foundation

Although this initially shocked me, I can understand and sympathize with the dilemma many camping parks are experiencing.  Economic hard times over the past few years have undoubtedly caused some people to camp less, and stay closer to home, while parks and campgrounds have experienced increased costs and decreased funding, which have resulted in cutbacks in staffing and services.  Additionally, “Today’s [sequester] Cuts Mean Wide-Ranging Impacts for Parks – and – People around the Country”, writes Tom Kiernan, President of the National Parks Conservation Association, and detailed in the National Parks Conservation Association’s Park Advocate posting of March 1, 2013.  “Funding Discussion Shares Creative Solutions for National Park Funding Woes”, writes Tom in an article for the Huffington Post Green Blog, 3/20/2013.

One solution for some camping parks is to provide cabins to attract new campers who are not ready to invest in camping gear or an RV.  “California State Parks have endured hard times and budget cuts for a number of years now…  Our proposal to revitalize and reopen Tamarisk Grove Campground was selected by California State Parks for a special grant last March… 10 new cabins will be built onsite to give folks an alternative to tent or trailer camping”, writes Kathy Dice, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Superintendent, in her “Superintendent’s Corner” of the Anza-Borrego Foundation‘s Desert Update, Fall 2012 issue.

DSC_0020 Cabins nearing completion

As the Agua Caliente cabins are nearing completion, I still have mixed emotions about cabins replacing RV sites.  Cabins are structures that permanently occupy space and block views, especially noticeable in this vast desert setting.*  New cabins in wooded settings, such as William Heise County Park*, seem to tie in better with the surroundings and are less obtrusive.

DSC_0026 SE loop with 7 cabins

Agua Caliente Campground is also currently upgrading its electrical service to include 50 amp power and eliminate the power poles, and plans to upgrade the sewer system.  The plan also calls for new RV sites… eventually.  But as the documentary Surviving Progress* points out, we must make a distinction between good progress and bad progress.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

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