Tuesday, April 23, 2013

MITCHELL CAVERNS: Seeing state budget cuts up close

Mitchell Caverns are in the the Providence Mountains of eastern San Bernardino County (Mark Muckenfuss/staff photo)


California’s budget crisis hit me full-force recently when I realized Mitchell Caverns in the Mojave Desert’s Providence Mountains State Recreation Area are closed indefinitely.

These unique caverns, developed as a private tourist attraction in the 1930s, are not someplace I go often — I’ve only been there once. But on our spring break vacation in the desert, my husband and I wanted to take our children to see the caverns’ stalagmites, stalactites and other limestone formations.

We called, but the phone went unanswered. A little research turned up the reason.

The Providence Mountains State Recreation Area was closed in January 2011, along with 69 other state parks; 208 parks remain open. The area, which is within the boundaries of the Mojave National Preserve, became a state park in 1956.

According to the National Park Service, which includes notice of the closure in its newsletter for the Mojave preserve, said there were serious problems with the water system at the caverns, which coincided with state budget cuts.

The closures were necessary to meet $11 million in funding cuts that year, and $22 million this year, state officials said.

Sad to think, the only way my children may ever see this desert treasure is on video.