State Parks Funding

Fort Ross State Historic Park, Sonoma County

Maintenance backlog: $9.7 million

When the state can't fix it, volunteers sometimes find a way.

Fort Ross State Historic Park is home to the oldest wooden structure in California. Built in 1836 of massive jointed timbers, the Rotchev House now has a leaky roof, moldy walls and a mouse infestation.

The house has been through one fire and three restorations since the park was established in 1906. But California has never paid for interpretive displays to educate visitors about its Russian inhabitants.

So the nonprofit Fort Ross Interpretive Association stepped forward, obtaining $180,000 in grants to have Russian craftsmen build reproduction furniture to help visitors appreciate the refined life Russians enjoyed on this wild coast.

The furniture was installed this month after the threat of rain had passed – only in the driest rooms.

"We put it so that it's kind of away from those (damp) walls," said association administrator Sarjan Holt.

Before winter, the association will consult experts on how best to protect the Rotchev House and its furniture. Remedies could include climate control, a new roof or both.

"If State Parks can't do it, maybe we'll go look for some more grants," Holt said. "We're doing all the things that they cannot do."

Last week, another potential funding source opened up when a Russian billionaire announced he would form an international nonprofit to protect the fort.

– Matt Weiser

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