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McGrath State Beach in Oxnard to be closed

April 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
McGrath State Beach in Oxnard will close down indefinitely in September due to lack of funds to fix an aging sewage line.

McGrath State Beach is popular with hundreds of thousands of campers

The campground will be closing. About 300,000 people a year visit the park.

Mike Massick gets ready for a weekend of camping with his friends and family. It's a beautiful park, within walking distance of the ocean, and 188 spaces for tents and campers.

Yet because of a rotting sewer pipe, it's going to close in September. McGrath State Beach Park will be closed indefinitely, because state parks don't have the half-million dollars needed to repair it.

"The section of the sewer line that's in the worst condition is traveling over the Santa Clara River, which is an extremely sensitive environmental area," said California Parks District Superintendent Richard Rozzelle. "Additionally, that river flows into the ocean where the public swims."

Rozzelle has spent his life working to keep parks open. The California State Parks Department has been told it must reduce its budget by $22 million over the next two years.

People like the Ramirez family are just learning of the plans to close McGrath State Beach.

"It's heart-wrenching, really. I'm hoping that maybe something can be devised to keep the park open. That'd be nice," said Ramirez.

"George" from Antelope Valley has been coming to McGrath for a long time. Driving down here from his home is like entering a different world.

"It's just our favorite, you know? You have everything here," said George. "You have the air, the breeze off the ocean, and it's far away from the freeway."

There are other state parks, but they are also hurting. There is a $1.3-billion maintenance deficit that needs to be reformed statewide in the parks, and there's no money to do it. Rotting wood and cracked bricks can be found at McGrath, a scene repeated at other state parks.

"The reason I got into the parks business was to open and create new parks and to allow access to the public," said Rozzelle. "And now I'm having to do the complete opposite of that."

It's not clear if the park will open again, or whether other parks around the state will close.

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