Jerry Brown proposes $424K for Truckee’s Donner Memorial museum |

Jerry Brown proposes $424K for Truckee’s Donner Memorial museum

Margaret Moran
When it opens this spring, the new Donner Memorial State Park museum will feature exhibits on the Donner Party, regional Native American history and history of railroad development through Donner Pass.
Margaret Moran / Sierra Sun |

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Barring further delays, the Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center is slated to open in late spring, a state official said this week.

This news comes after Gov. Jerry Brown last week unveiled a $113 billion California budget proposal for fiscal year 2015-16, which earmarks $424,000 for the visitor center as part of a $37 million allocation for state parks.

“We’re very thankful that the governor identified this particular project, and we’ll just have to see if it materializes at the end of the legislative process,” said Vicky Waters, deputy director of public affairs for California State Parks.

If received, the state money would go toward center operations, Waters said, allowing the roughly 10,000-square-foot building at the state park east of Donner Lake to be open seven days a week.

Without it, the center will be open four days a week, supported by existing department funding, she said. Specific operational days have yet to be identified, but would include popular visitation days.

Before the center can open this spring, installation of exhibits and lighting and audio, and training of staff on new technology is still needed.

Inside, a museum will feature interactive exhibits, including those on the Donner Party, regional Native American history, railroad development through Donner Pass and Interstate 80 construction.

Construction on the roughly $6 million center began mid-May 2011 — a time when the California State Parks system was in the middle of its well-documented run of financial struggles — and concluded in summer 2013.

Weather, design challenges and an appeal to an awarded exhibit contract bid for the museum delayed the facility from officially opening.

Due to the current Emigrant Trail Museum’s small size, along with it having structural deficiencies, not being fully accessible under ADA guidelines and maintaining high energy costs, state parks found it more cost effective to build a new museum rather than remodel the existing building.

Once Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center opens, the Emigrant Trail Museum building will be used for archival storage, training and office and meeting room space.

In all, California State Parks is outlined to get $20 million for deferred maintenance and another nearly $17 million increase to continue existing service levels, according to Brown’s proposed budged.

According to the Associated Press, Elizabeth Goldstein, president of California State Parks Foundation, said in a statement that “the era of state park closures seems to be behind us.”

Goldstein calls the $20 million a pittance compared to a backlog estimated at more than $1.3 billion, and noted that Brown’s $40 million proposal last year was never approved.

A final state budget should return to Brown in June for approval.

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