Gold rush national historic park proposed for Northern California

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PLACERVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — California’s rich gold rush history is celebrated in state parks and privately-owned historic sites from the Sacramento Valley to the Sierra Nevada.

What if they could be linked together as one big national park?

“Because we have a whole gold belt here and there is actually quite a lot that could be part of this park,” said Placerville resident Jennifer Chapman.

Chapman has a wealth of experience as a park ranger and curator. She’s pouring that expertise into a proposal to establish a California gold rush national historic park with a visitor center in Placerville.

“It just makes so much more sense, you know, when you do start to make it part of a bigger story,” Chapman said at the Wednesday night meeting of the Placerville Recreation and Parks Commission. “I think a national park would cause people to, you know, stay multiple days instead of just taking a side trip on their way to Tahoe.” 

The purpose of the night was to start the conversation and generate interest.

The overall concept is called a partnership park. It calls for a variety of sites under different jurisdictions and ownerships to maintain their own identities but under a national park umbrella with a limited role for the federal government.

“And that does help tie it together for both environmental planning, historic resource preservation planning, as well as interpreting and educating the public about how all of these resources are interconnected,” Chapman explained.

An existing example is the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which encompasses six state parks.

A gold rush national historic park would eventually require congressional involvement.

“The National Park Service can do some kind of initial survey if representatives from Congress request it, and so that might be a first step,” Chapman said.

A website has been established with more information about the effort.

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