City officials are trying to come up with a plan to assume control of Benicia’s two state parks, the only ones in Solano County.
Mike Dotson, Benicia’s new director of Parks and Community Services, said Wednesday that the city was in the process of drafting proposals to run Benicia State Recreation Area and Benicia Capitol State Historic Park for as long as two years.
Dotson made the statement at a public meeting at the new Benicia Community Center at the former Mills Elementary School on East L Street.
“It’s a difficult situation,” Dotson said.
“Funds will be our biggest challenge.”
A state plan to close the parks as part of budget-cutting moves ordered by the governor’s office has caused alarm in the city, the oldest in Solano County.
The state recreation area is a popular destination for runners and nature lovers, and the downtown historic park — which includes California’s third capital building — is the centerpiece of Benicia’s tourism promotion campaign that started earlier this year.
Benicia was California’s capital for 13 months in 1853 and 1854, and the restored capital building is the only pre-Sacramento capitol still standing.
San Jose was the capital when California became a state in 1850 and legislators met in a converted hotel, and Vallejo became the capital in 1852. Vallejo’s capital building burned to the ground in 1859.
Vallejo’s three-story wood capitol was recently commemorated with a monument outside the new Vallejo Transit Center on Sacramento Street, near where the structure once stood.
A discussion of the need for volunteers, led by Carol Berman of the Benicia State Parks Association, opened the meeting, which also heard a presentation from Lt. Bob Oettinger of the Benicia Police Department.
Dotson acknowledged that the city had been communicating regularly with California officials about the possibility of taking over maintenance and other responsibilities at the two parks.
He said the state already had agreed to reopen the recreation area’s restrooms on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The more than 50 people in attendance then broke up into small groups to sign up for volunteer duties should the city be able to finalize an agreement with the state to take over the parks.
The downtown Benicia Capitol park includes the Fischer-Hanlon House, a former hotel moved next-door to the old capital building in 1858, four years after the legislature left for Sacramento.
California plans to close 70 of its 278 state parks by June 30, 2012.