The Fight to Save a California State Park Gets Personal

Frank Quan at China Camp Village  Photo: Mary Catherine O'Connor

I found Frank Quan at a picnic bench, just off the beach, as the waters of San Pablo Bay lapped gently on the shore. It was an unseasonably warm, windless April afternoon and Quan was sitting in China Camp Village with the Ernie Stanton, the treasurer of Friends of China Camp, a group of volunteers that are scrambling to save China Camp State Park. The 1,500-acre park in southeast Marin County, near the town of San Rafael, is one of many California State Parks that have been slated for closure as of July 1, 2012, due to budgetary constraints.

Aside from a beloved park for mountain biking, road biking, trail running, hiking and boating, China Camp is Frank Quan’s lifelong home, and it was his family’s home for generations. China Camp was once a major shrimping village for Chinese immigrants who’d been forced out of San Francisco by white settlers who, essentially, no longer cared to compete with the very successful Chinese fishermen. When the state park was founded in 1977, Quan remained. He still lives in his family home, right there on the beach, and runs the small café and history museum in China Camp Village.

So the specter of China Camp's closure poses a conundrum that well exceeds the hand-wringing over other state parks that are facing the same fate. If this park isn't saved, where will 85-year-old Quan go? 

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