The San Mateo County Parks Department has announced that the campsites at its Memorial Park grounds in Loma Mar will be closed for the duration of the 2014 camping season due to ongoing drought conditions.
Park officials were forced to shutter the popular site for the first time in response to the statewide drought that has reduced water levels in Pescadero Creek, the main water source for the park. Lower creek levels, combined with increasing water temperatures, have also led to an algae bloom in the creek, officials said.
But the primary driving force for the closure is that with the limited supply of creek water, the department is not able to properly operate the campsites, Parks Director Marlene Finley said.
"The main reason is lack of water," Finley said. "We've been monitoring water levels, and we thought we had a few more inches before we would have to close the campground. But the low water combined with the algae made it so we couldn't keep the water flowing."
Finley remains hopeful that camping can resume in the redwood-dense, 499-acre park in 2015.
"It all depends on whether we continue in this drought cycle or get a sufficient amount of rain," she said.
In the meantime, the 2,250 people who made reservations to camp in the park this season are being contacted by staff members and given the option of either receiving a refund, transferring their reservations to the 2015 season or, in some cases, making reservations to camp at other county parks.
"It was a difficult decision because so many people count on their summer vacation at Memorial campground. For some, they've been coming to Memorial to camp for generations," Finley said.
This season's closure is the first in the history of Memorial Park, which is dedicated to the memory of World War I soldiers and this year celebrates 90 years of being a park. The camping fees lost this year are expected to cost the Parks Department about $300,000 to $350,000, Finley said.
The 26.6-mile-long Pescadero Creek, which flows from the Santa Cruz Mountains, is the county's longest stream and also the only water source to Memorial Park.
Park rangers will continue to monitor the creek water levels and track its further developments. The Parks Department is in the process of hiring a contractor to install 10,000-gallon holding tanks in Memorial Park to help alleviate the lack of creek water.
An application for state funding has also been submitted by the Resource Conservation District for San Mateo County. The application requests funding for a 2 million-gallon holding tank, which would collect water throughout the year and replace the current half-million-gallon tank, which is nonfunctioning due to a crack. Installation of such a container could take up to two years, Finley said.
There are two other parks within the Pescadero Creek Complex: Sam McDonald Park, at which youth campsites have also been closed this season due to drought-related reasons, and Pescadero Creek Park, which remains open to visitors. All the day-use areas at Memorial Park currently remain open as well, but visitors are advised to bring their own drinking water.