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No day in the park at Marysville's Riverfront
The boat launch in Beckwourth Riverfront Park is not much of a local facility, let alone an attraction for visitors, says a former city councilman
"We have this facility we're not able to use in low water," said Simmons, also a former Yuba County supervisor.
In addition, invasive vegetation clogs motors, and the lagoon, "hasn't been dredged — there's no easy ingress or egress. You can't get through."
Because it is rarely used and rarely patrolled, security issues abound.
"It really could be a tourist draw, but people drive in and it looks like hell and they can't leave their rig there because it'll get broken into," Simmons said.
Restoring areas around the boat launch and the facility to a profitable state will not be easy, he admitted.
Security and maintenance deficiencies, both products of a down economy, also are intertwined with the park's general lack of use.
Building momentum for the park's future use and profitability will not be easy.
"There's not a silver bullet," Simmons said. "It's gonna take a lot."
The answer, he said, might be easier if the burden wasn't entirely Marysville's to bear. Partnering with Yuba County would make the park eligible for more recreation grant funding.
"If you make a regional park out of it, funds would come," Simmons said.
Meanwhile, confusion about the park's moniker speaks to larger problems of identity.
The name was changed about 20 years ago to Beckwourth Riverfront Park, a reference to James P. Beckwourth, one of the area's best-known pioneers, and to an annual frontier-themed festival named in his honor.
But the festival faded and died, and signage within the park never caught up to reflect the homage.
Such ambiguity doesn't help promote the park's image.
"People don't even know what to call it," Simmons said.
— Nancy Pasternack
A faded, badly deteriorated sign marking the Beckwourth Riverfront Park boat launch facility helps tell the tale of the park's demise.
Lettering on the once-grand marker claims that the city of Marysville maintained the site.
Evidence of any such maintenance now is scarce.
"They just let it go because they didn't have any money," said Bill Simmons, a former Yuba County supervisor and Marysville City Council member.
The boat launch, like the Mervyns Feather River Pavillion nearby, was built in the 1970s. For 20 years, both facilities enjoyed regular use and brought scores of area residents and visitors to Marysville for recreation and entertainment.
An annual boat race, raft race, Fourth-of-July fireworks celebration, regular concerts and music festivals — from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, those events kept the park in regular use.
But invasive weeds and litter now dominate areas around the boat launch and amphitheater.
With the exception of Cotton Rosser's annual event, the Flying U Rodeo, the outdoor performance facility and surrounding 7-acre spectator area are almost never used.
"It's not enough to say you want to do events there," said Yuba County Supervisor John Nicoletti. "It takes big investment."
Nicoletti's late father, businessman Robert Nicoletti, was instrumental in the pavilion's creation and in its early use.
But in recent years, the facility and grounds go without upkeep.
"And we've had so many run-ins with thieves," John Nicoletti said. "They cut things up for the copper wiring."
Only a motorcross enterprise on the northern end of the park and athletic fields in the central area show regular activity within the park.
Meanwhile, the site with the greatest financial potential, Simmons said — the boat dock area — is in a miserable state.
"The restrooms are nice. They're up on a hill overlooking the boat dock," said Simmons. "But you can't use them. They're full of needles and feces."
Simmons, an avid boater and fisherman, has been pushing city officials for a decade to restore the boat launch area to its former glory.
He appears to have a new ally in City Manager Walter Munchheimer.
Last month, Munchheimer told a room full of residents and business owners at Caltrans District 3 headquarters that river access represents "the biggest underutilized asset of the city."
Munchheimer's River District designation includes "the entire riverfront area including the levee and beyond, into the inundation areas along the Feather River."
The site is, he noted, "unquestionably difficult to develop, but undeniably underutilized as an economic contributor."
"He wants to do something," said Simmons. "But it has to be a total package."
Simmons believes that making improvements for boaters will be the key to revitalizing the massive swath of park land, as a whole.
He has enlisted help to construct a new fish cleaning station at the site with a Youthbuild grant, materials donated by Recology, and assistance from Frank M. Booth Inc.
The project is simple, he said, "and will cost the city nothing other than reviewing the plans."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack. Rich history of concerts By Nancy Pasternack @ADnpasternack
Rich history of concerts
Bruce Buttacavoli said he remembers when Beckwourth Riverfront Park was wild and undeveloped.
The 58-year-old Marysville construction contractor and musician gave a free concert at the Mervyns Feather River Pavilion in the early 1980s, during its peak of activity.
But the land's history as a park, he said, is new.
"When I was a kid, there was nothing there," he said. "Motocross came in when I was in high school, and softball fields after that."
Around that same time, according to Yuba County Supervisor John Nicoletti, "My father started Buffalo Productions."
The concert production enterprise came about, he said, during redevelopment activity in Marysville in the early 1970s.
Construction on Mervyns department store required demolition of historic buildings on D Street, a fact which brought the company's founder, Mervin G. Morris, into town to promote the change.
"He came and spoke to the community, and my father walked up to him and said, 'Have I got a project for you.'"
With the help of a group of local businessmen called MAGIC — Marysville Area General Improvement Corp. — Robert Nicoletti was able to convince Morris to invest in a music pavilion.
Loren Perkins, a local hair salon owner and former member of the business owners' group, said the group organized and promoted dozens of events.
"We did a lot of stuff back in those days," he said. "Som times, we overspent and didn't make a profit."
Among the projects that group took on was the first fundraiser for what later became the Yuba-Sutter Regional Arts Council and something called The World's Most Outrageous Raft Race in Marysville.
Through the 1970s and '80s, the venue saw rock, country and pop music concerts, a jazz festival, the Feather River Jam, and in 1994, it became the birthplace of a successful world music festival.
That festival enjoyed several years at the pavilion and the park's surrounding grounds.
According to Perkins and Nicoletti, it drew the facility's biggest crowds.
"They used to fill up all the hotels," said John Nicoletti of the concert-goers. "And it was like a mini-Woodstock in the park. They camped in the soccer fields."
A combination of complaints from residents and city officials about the concerts, and park damage from the 1997 flood, led to a slow death for entertainment at the pavilion, as Nicoletti remembers it.
"They didn't like the hippies at all," he said. "The city was no longer interested in having large acts, and they did not want to participate in festivals or shows."
The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, which continues to be successful, moved to Calaveras County in 2001, then to the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in 2006.
MAGIC had been the precursor to the Marysville Business Improvement District, which now is in the midst of a petition drive for dissolution.
In the early 1990s, according to Nicoletti, both Sierra Nevada Brewery Co. and Sudwerks floated the idea of expanding to Marysville and developing new facilities near the concert pavilion.
"We wanted to make this (Marysville) a microbrew hub," Nicoletti said, "but it fell through."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at email@example.com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.