Old Sacramento would become the go-to spot for Gold Rush history in a proposal unveiled by state parks officials.
A draft preferred alternative for the Old Sacramento State Historic Park General Plan calls for unearthing buildings of the 1840s and '50s that are now buried beneath a grassy open space across from the California State Railroad Museum.
Fortunes were made by entrepreneurs who served the gold prospectors, and that aspect of history would be captured in street-level reconstructions of historic buildings providing a snapshot of Sacramento's waterfront and commerce in the 1870s, said Catherine Taylor, superintendent for the state parks Capital District.
The proposal presented during a public workshop Wednesday emerged from two earlier workshops and numerous meetings with community groups, as well as city, state and federal agencies.
"The preferred alternative recognizes that the Gold Rush story is really an important one in Old Sacramento and from the perspective of what happened in Sacramento," Taylor said
But equally important, people said, was the commerce and waterfront activity that accompanied and outlasted the Gold Rush.
"It's important to tell the story of how the world rushed into Sacramento," consultant Allen Folks said in explaining the significance of periods that the plan spotlights.
The proposal will be the subject of an environmental impact report. The environmental study and proposed 20-year plan are expected to be submitted to the California State Park and Recreation Commission for approval next spring.
Taylor said the goal of the general plan is to make Old Sacramento the focal point for Gold Rush history much as the California State Railroad Museum is for the history of Western railroads.
The open-space area next to the Railroad Museum was excavated in the 1960s and '70s, then covered up. The goal is to again reveal the Sacramento that existed before the city's streets were raised in the 1860s, Taylor said.
The plan also calls for horse-drawn trolley-style vehicles to improve transportation through Old Sacramento while retaining its historic character. A horse-car loop is proposed, including I, Front, L and Second streets.
Taylor said many of the people who attended earlier workshops wanted more access to the riverfront. The proposal calls for extending the docks.
During the Gold Rush, Taylor said, "The river was like a huge parking lot."
Old Sacramento State Historic Park also includes 17 miles of railroad right of way extending from Old Sacramento to the town of Hood. The plan would include an excursion train to the Sacramento Zoo and another between Pocket-Meadowview Road and Hood, through portions of the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
Taylor said the section of the line through Land Park and South Land Park would be used only a few times a year to move equipment.
Most of the concerns voiced Wednesday involved train traffic through the Land Park area and if state parks at some point wanted to include that section in the excursion line. Such a change, Taylor said, would require another environmental study and additional hearings.
She stressed that the general plan is a road map and the proposed projects may not be undertaken for years.