I am pleased that Sen. Barbara Boxer has introduced a companion Senate bill to designate the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area following Rep. Mike Thompson’s introduction of a House bill. This designation will be important to Lake Berryessa.
Until now, those who enjoy Lake Berryessa have primarily come for the boating. With new facilities and campgrounds (once we finally get them) and with plans for various trails at the lake and on adjacent public land, there is an opportunity to diversify the recreational activities and the market for the lake.
A National Conservation Area designation will help to attract those interested in nature and nature-based recreation. According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, active outdoor recreation (such as hiking, paddling, camping, wildlife viewing, birding and biking) contributes $46 billion to the California economy, is responsible for 408,000 jobs, and generates $31.2 billion in local revenue. Access to public land is a boon to rural areas of the state that rely on natural resources to attract visitors.
Rural areas like Lake Berryess can take advantage of that.
Thus far, it has been challenging to convince people interested in these forms of recreation to try Lake Berryessa. It has long been known as primarily a motor boat lake, which has discouraged those seeking slower and quieter recreation from coming here in large numbers. The number of kayakers is growing, but slowly.
How can we encourage the nature-based recreation crowd to come? National Conservation Area status would be a start by helping to redefine this area in a positive light.
The key will be to ensure that when they do come, those interested in quieter, slower forms of recreation find the experience they want and are not disappointed. At 19,000 surface acres, Lake Berryessa is large enough to accommodate different types of use. Swimmers and paddlers should be made to feel that this lake is also for them.
These days, a bad experience can generate criticism that reaches thousands of like-minded “friends.” A weekend visit with a nice campsite, good food and a relaxed, enjoyable paddle on the lake can also circle among like-minded friends, causing more people to come visit the lake. We need people to come, like what they see, and come back with their friends.
We need to let go of the past and step into the future. The heightened profile of National Conservation Area status would bring new facilities for the public, trails, and a lake that welcomes swimmers, hikers, paddlers and motor boaters. The recreational and economic future of Lake Berryessa is basically ours to win. Let’s make sure we do that.
Wallin lives in Napa.