Friday, May 15, 2015

Mitchell Caverns Reopening Efforts Update

Special Report by John Marnell
MDHCA representative for Mitchell Caverns

As Jack and Ida Mitchell gaze from the front porch of their home at the caverns into the brightness that is the east Mojave Desert, I believe that in the same way we are beginning to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” that is the reopening of Mitchell Caverns.

A good deal of the infrastructure was either damaged or destroyed by the theft and vandalism attack that occurred more than three years ago. Coupled with the same lack of maintenance that plagues most of California’s State Parks, and budget woes, the road to reopening has been a long and winding one.

This past week, I attended a meeting with the district superintendent for California State Parks and Recreation about Mitchell Caverns and some really heartening news was provided. As you may recall from previous articles, the primary delay has been with bringing a new well on-line. While not yet complete, a good volume of top quality water at a depth of 550’ has been reached, the casing is in place, and the pump has been ordered. Money has been approved and a contract is about to be awarded for the completion of the generator system upgrade. These are the final issues to be resolved.

A couple of months ago I got to see firsthand the refinished visitor center (the former home of Jack and Ida), the newly installed LED lighting within the caverns, newly sealed roadway and parking lots, and I was impressed by the enthusiasm of Andy Fitzpatrick the State Interpretive Ranger who is stationed at the park.

The State will not announce a formal reopening until all is ready but the timeline appears to be on schedule for perhaps a July date. The plan as of now is to have a formal “Grand Reopening” celebration at the park a month or two later, to be certain all systems are in good order, tour procedures are in place and working correctly.

Please visit the Committee to Reopen Mitchell Caverns on the web, and on Facebook for up to date information.

The State Parks website for Providence Mountains may also be updated regularly.