2012-05-31 / Front Page

Mining and mineral museum staff are packing collection

By Erik Skindrud/GAZETTE REPORTER

California Mining and Mineral Museum staff have sent 100 boxes containing part of the museum's collection to a Sacramento storage facility in anticipation of a July 1 closure date.

“It’s going to be sad if it happens,” museum curator Darci Moore said on June 1. “We are still hoping that (the private museum association) can take over operation of the facility. The only other way is for a donor to step forward with money to cover salaries and operation,” she said.

How much would a donor have to give? A total of $180,000 a year would do it, Moore said.

On May 30, the non-profit California Mining and Mineral Museum Association board of directors turned down California State Parks’ terms for a cooperative agreement that would keep the facility open. Association president Ron Iudice said terms offered by California’s Department of Parks and Recreation do not add up to a sustainable recipe.

“They’re treating us like a concessionaire, not a non-profit (group),” Iudice said. “By the terms of the agreement, they want us to be like a state parks employee. We are volunteers. There’s no way we can march to that tune.”

If no agreement materializes between the state and the museum association, and no donor steps forward, one possible saviour for the museum remains.

Last month, California Assemblymember Kristin Olsen joined with fellow state legislators in support of a bill that could rescue Mariposa’s museum, and close to 70 others, from the July 1 deadline. Called AB 1589, the bill would secure additional revenue to keep parks open and make closing state parks an option of last resort.

While Mariposa County has only one state park, the museum is a tourist draw and one of the most unique facilities in the state park system. The total value of museum artifacts is unknown, but certainly runs into the millions of dollars. The collection includes rare and beautiful gold specimens like the 13.8-lb. Fricot nugget and lesser-known but rare and valueable benitoite crystals.

The legislative push is supported by Democrats and Republicans. Olsen called it a rare example of “bipartisan problem solving.”

“We will continue fighting to prevent the closure of the historic parks of Railtown 1897 State Park in Sonora and the Mariposa Mining and Mineral Museum,” she said in a statement. “Parks are vital to the economies of the local communities they serve and closure would be a blow to their already fragile state.”

The photo seen with this story shows museum curator Darci Moore.

Look for a full version of this story in the June 7 issue of the MARIPOSA GAZETTE.

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The problem is the State of

The problem is the State of California will be in this current financial mess for several years; estimated at 10 or more. Silicon Valley came up with a million to keep one park open for 3 years, but will those guys keep donating? A park in northern CA won its cooperating agreement with DPR but has to raise $475K/year. How long can they keep going. Several parks have found the money to go for a year or two, but that will only stave off the inevitable. The thing called "donor fatigue" will certainly prevail in the end. This whole mess has to be solved by the state. The only way to save State Parks is for the legislature to fully fund the State Park System.

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