Many state parks share a property line with urban areas, a relationship that can breed trouble.
This "wildland-urban interface" often ends in problems with illegal dumping and trails, fire risk and invasive species in the parks.
At Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, officials keep a watchful eye on residential backyards that push up against the park. Some homeowners build illegal trails from backyards to create a private link with park trails. Some "extend" their backyards by adding landscaping onto park property or cutting trees to improve views, said Jim Micheaels, a senior parks and recreation specialist in the state parks department.
Once or twice every year, Micheaels said, such encroachments are serious enough that park officials contact a property owner and negotiate a restitution payment. "There's so many of these, we don't have the staff time or money to deal with them all," he said.
At China Camp State Park in San Rafael, such problems include invasive plants that have crept from backyards onto park property. At a finger of parkland that extends behind McNears Drive, numerous non-native cacti and pampas grasses grow head-high on the public land.
"So then it becomes our responsibility to make sure we're cutting that back every year, and making sure it's not compromising habitat," said Bree Hardcastle, an environmental scientist at the park.