State Parks Funding

George Hatfield State Recreation Area, Merced County

Maintenance backlog: $949,000

Regulars often are the first to notice.

Matt Lair, 31, has been camping at George Hatfield State Recreation Area for 25 years.

A resident of nearby Delhi, Lair was there on a recent Thursday morning starting the weekend early with three friends, a gaggle of children, plenty of food for barbecuing and cold beer.

Lair had noticed a difference in the campgrounds from years past.

"The park used to be well kept," he said. "They don't clean up the trees or the bathrooms. The girls bathroom is real bad."

Lair was right. One toilet appeared to be clogged; the others were dirty.

Aside from the bathrooms, the park is generally clean, but other signs of neglect easily can be spotted. The trees need pruning, one tree is spray-painted, the road is cracked, some of the barbecues lack grills.

The bathrooms suffer more than just cosmetic problems, too, as the clogged toilet suggests. They were built in the 1960s, park officials said, and since then the number of visitors has soared.

"The water system can't handle the capacity of visitors," said Greg Martin, park spokesman. "The toilets regularly get clogged. It's difficult to keep clean. We sometimes have to bring in portable chemical toilets."

– Jamie Oppenheim

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