California decides to close Memorial Park for renovations

Scott Hess

Donner Memorial State Park is set to close in August for bathroom renovations, a move that may cost Truckee businesses a good chunk of money, according to Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lynn Saunders.

“We heard about it in the spring,” Saunders said. She said California’s first bid did not go through, but the second one did. The California Department of Parks and Recreation has informed Truckee that the Memorial Park campground and day use area with be closed Aug. 10 to start the project.

Saunders, however, said she feels the closure of the park in the late summer would be detrimental to Truckee and would be “very critical to a lot of businesses” to the tune of $447,000, according to estimates by the chamber.

Saunders has written a letter to John Knott, the district superintendent for the Department of Parks and Recreation. She has also contacted and sent her letter to other elected officials in the area, hoping California will see the need for the park to stay open an extra 22 days.

Citing the May 2001 Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce Tourism Profile, Saunders wrote that visitors have averaged 4.4 nights in Truckee and “spend an average of $581 in Truckee over the course of their trip.” With the premature closure of the park in mid-August, and more importantly through Labor Day, she said, Truckee could lose approximately $447,000.

Although not all that $447,000 is from camping permits alone, Saunders said if people didn’t have a place to stay, they might not come to Truckee at all. To try to compromise with the State of California, Saunders wrote, “We urge you to seriously reconsider the start of your renovation project until after the Labor Day Weekend.”

Saunders said starting construction after Labor Day would be ideal because tourism declines beginning in September.

“When to construct the buildings was part of the process with the contract,” Knott said. “If it were somewhere without an extreme winter, we could build it later.”

Knott also stated that the contractor who won the bid would have liked to start in June, so they think the August starting date was late enough.

“They will be working through December as it is,” he said. “The bid was based on the time frame that we advertised it for. It seems unreasonable for the contractor to have to wait longer.”

“We understand the need to maintain the campground infrastructure,” Saunders wrote in her letter to Knott. “Providing visitors with the quality of experience they expect ensures their satisfaction and future visitation. However we feel it is critical to Truckee’s summer tourism business that the 154 campsites remain open and available through Labor Day Weekend, including the day use area.”

Saunders said she hopes the State of California will consider her suggestion to start at a later date so Truckee would only suffer a minimal loss. However, Knott made it clear that there would probably be no change in the construction schedule.

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