On a clear, warm Thursday morning, 57-year-old George Litt meandered from the Hatfield State Recreation Area parking lot, down a walking path leading to a bank by the Merced River, where his daughter and grandkids were fishing.
As his grandkids, Kyndell and Kyle Johnston, dropped their lines in the water, Litt's daughter, Brandy, helped teach the two some of the finer points of the sport before the group made its way to the park's picnic area to have lunch.
Unfortunately, the Norman Rockwell-type scene is one that may disappear soon if the state goes through with cuts to its park system.
Two state parks in Merced County are on the verge of closing -- both the McConnell and the George J. Hatfield state recreation areas are on the chopping block.
For Litt and his family, the move would take away a valuable outlet where they can go and enjoy nature. "This is pretty handy," he said of the park, adding that "there's a variety of wildlife" that adds to the beauty of the park. Some people even come from the Bay Area to camp there, he noted.
But because of the state budget deficit, 70 state parks are slated to be shut down to save money.
Before the plan becomes a reality, one group of citizens is hoping to raise money to keep the parks open.
The state has offered a "concessions process," where private groups or organizations can work together to take over management of the parks, said Amber Phillips, Merced County's special projects grant writer. To keep the parks running, the groups would have to give the state $65,000 a year.
Read the complete storyat mercedsunstar.com