Columbia State Historic Park, Tuolumne County

06/27/2010 12:00 AM

08/21/2012 9:24 PM

Maintenance backlog: $6.7 million

Long after the plumbing leaks were fixed, water stains linger on the wallpaper inside Columbia State Historic Park's best-known home.

The stains will have to wait. The park has a nearly $7 million list of repairs, and the Wilson-McConnell house, beloved as it is, has plenty of competition.

"We stopped all the leaks, we dried the house out, but now we have to come up with money to restore it," said Vince Sereno, superintendent of the state parks sector that includes Columbia, during a tour of the 1878 home.

The park's 160 buildings are the largest state-owned collection of Gold Rush structures, an important part of Tuolumne County's tourist-driven economy. Keeping them in shape costs plenty.

Roofs leak. Stormwater gathers around foundations and threatens to undermine them. Some buildings have faulty electricity. Some have lead paint, asbestos or mold.

Sereno tries to arrange fixes with a general fund maintenance budget that has reached $200,000 in good years but dropped to a quarter of that last year. Big projects occasionally get done thanks to park bond money, such as the $4.4 million restoration of a five-building complex known as the Knapp Block.

"They're not glamorous projects," Sereno said. "People can't see them, but if you don't do them, the park can't function."

– John Holland


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