State park opening may be delayed | SierraSun.com

State park opening may be delayed

Renee Shadforth, Sierra Sun

In the face of budget challenges and a later-than-expected completion date, a $1.3 million restroom renovation project at Donner Memorial State Park should open as planned on Memorial Day weekend, say state park officials.

However, one thing may stand in the way of a timely opening – leaky sewer pipes.

There is no evidence the pipes connecting the restrooms to the main sewer line are leaking at this point, but a state-mandated test of those lines may create some problems, said Ray Patton, acting district superintendent for the California State Parks Sierra District.

“There’s no indication that they (the pipes) are leaking,” Patton said. “One concern is with testing – that they (the pipes) will burst.”

The connection pipes were supposed to be replaced, according to the original scope of the renovation project; however, Patton said he is unsure, since there has been a lot of turnover in the state park district since the project began last summer.

Now, the old clay pipes must be tested – and pass – by June 15.

“If the lines test fine, we’ll open as planned,” he said. “If they don’t, then we’ll have to shut down and fix it.”

Although the state mandates the test, the process is overseen by the Truckee Sanitary District.

TSD threatened to disconnect Donner Memorial State Park from the sanitary sewer system after the state park did not respond to a series of letters from TSD asking for a test of the lines.

At last month’s sanitary district meeting, Patton represented the park district, citing lack of communication at the state level as the reason for not responding to TSD’s letters. He apologized for the late response.

The sanitary district board and Patton agreed to set June 15 as the testing deadline.

“Sometimes we have to threaten with a disconnect,” TSD outgoing General Manager O.R. “Oz” Butterfield said in an interview after the meeting. “Then, they have a solution for us.”

The test, which Patton estimated will cost the state park $5,000 to $6,000, looks for two potential problems: waste leaking out of the lines or water leaking into the lines.

The renovation project, which replaces six restroom buildings and the fixtures within the facilities, began in August 2003, closing the campground earlier than usual.

Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lynn Saunders decried the early closing date that summer, saying it would mean a substantial revenue loss for local businesses.

The renovation was supposed to be complete December 2003, but due to early snowfall, contractors had to halt work on the project sooner than planned, Patton said.

“Right now there is too much snow,” he said. “We can’t work on it until the snow is clear.”

If everything goes smoothly, the park should open as it normally would Memorial Day weekend, with one loop and one restroom ready for the public, Patton said.

Until that happens, Patton said he has two responsibilities: “No. 1, we’re not going to cause environmental pollution, and we’re going to do everything we can to keep the park open.”

Patton estimated the cost to replace the pipes could be $125,000 – money the state’s suffering budget may not be able to provide to Donner Memorial State Park, though there is some “breathing room” in the project’s budget.

However, closing the campground for any period of time would mean substantial revenue loss for Donner Memorial.

Also, according to the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce research (from summer 2003), average visitors spend $581 over the course of their trip and opening the park late could amount to a loss for the town.

Patton said he couldn’t agree more.

“It (the campground) is a large source of revenue for that park, and the visitors it brings are big for the town of Truckee.”