Thursday, June 28, 2012

Camping With The 1%

I am back on my soap box. We went camping. If you've been reading for a while you know I love to camp. The stars, the campfire, the great outdoors. We had heard about a great state park campground that has a swimming pool. I had been trying to get a reservation there for about two years. I logged in and found there were several spots available - that should have been my first clue.

We arrived to find a tired looking park ranger on the gate. Not tired in a I don't get enough sleep kind of way. Tired in a worn down, resigned kind of way. She told us the pool was "broken" - loud wails from the kids. She told us the trails were all closed because of multiple mountain lion sightings - worried whimper from mom. She told us the top bathroom was out of order - panicked look from increasingly deflated mom.

"Enjoy!" said the ranger with 'please don't take it out on me' written all over her face.

No problem - these are all things we can take in stride, not really a big deal. Our campsite was shady, large and had a trail down to a creek. Idyllic, with one exception - poison oak. The entire site was surrounded by it. It was around all the trees that the children hoped to climb in. It was around the tent on all sides. It grew over the trails to the creek, the bathroom, the water pump, the trash. It was literally out of control in the park. The bathrooms were dirty, old and broken in various ways. Sigh.

Here's why I am on my soap box. This camp ground is in the heart of California's Wine Country. All around are vineyards and winery tasting rooms. The towns are all full of shops selling incredibly expensive tchotchkes. The restaurants are $30 per entree affairs. The simplest hotel rooms are $250 a night. The entire region drips of wealth It is a 1% mecca. It made me sad. There are over 100 wineries in the area - where you pay around $30 in each to taste some wines and nibble on nuts, mustards and jams but there isn't enough money to maintain the state park in the region.

I know the issue is complicated - things involving politics always are. The California state park system is broken. The last several state park campsites we have stayed in have had major problems which apparently there is no money to fix. I find myself worried about our priorities. Preserving state parks, keeping places for our children to explore nature, allowing for the simple - should be important but it doesn't seem to be. I like to take a bite out of life and enjoy all things. I don't object to wine tasting or pricey art pieces - your money is yours to spend as you see fit but I do care that there seems to be less and less balance.

We seem driven to make everything sparkly and exclusive, thrilling or unique. We seem less concerned about stewardship of our lands. Have we learned nothing from history?
If each of the surrounding wineries donated $500 - significant repairs could be undertaken to preserve this community treasure. If each park visitor completed one job or repair in their stay think what could be achieved.
Food for campfire thought.

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