Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a new state park at Dos Rios Ranch, a riverside preserve southwest of Modesto.
The governor earmarked $5 million for the effort Friday as part of his revised budget proposal for the fiscal year starting July 1. It would provide the first regular public access to Dos Rios, a 2,400-acre expanse where the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers join.
State Parks Director Armando Quintero toured the site Wednesday with River Partners, the nonprofit leading the restoration.
“The beauty of a place like this is that many people in the Central Valley don’t get to experience the Central Valley for its really incredible and local natural beauty,” Quintero said. He spoke in the shade of a valley oak tree along with other agency leaders.
Friday was the annual May revision to the initial January budget and needs approval by the state Legislature. The overall $300.6 billion plan includes spending of a surplus that has grown to $97.5 billion thanks mainly to income taxes.
Dos Rios could get trails, picnic areas, restrooms and other basics within five years, said Brian Dewey, the department’s assistant deputy director for acquisitions and development. Campgrounds could follow within another five years.
Dos Rios would be the closest state park for Modesto residents, about 10 miles away. Stanislaus County also has Turlock Lake State Recreation Area, closed for now for lack of a concessionaire, and a remote portion of Coe State Park in the southwestern hills. Caswell and Hatfield state parks are just across rivers that border the county.
Dos Rios would be the 280th state park in California and the first addition since Fort Ord Dunes near Monterey in 2009.
River Partners and its allies have invested about $46 million on Dos Rios since 2012. They are planting native trees, brush and grass on fields that used to grow dairy feed and other crops. Breached levees allow floodwater to spread, easing the risk to Manteca and other points downstream.
Cottonwoods and other native trees have topped 30 feet, shading the floodplain for salmon and other creatures. One spot grows milkweed to nourish monarch butterflies. Another yields basket-weaving material for Indigenous people.
Dewey said approval of Friday’s budget request would launch a process that includes public input on the possible park features. Parking lots and other development would be away from the floodplains. River Partners now oversees the site from an office off Shiloh Road.
Quintero noted that Dos Rios is just east of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. And the new park could be reached by rowboats launched in Modesto and farther upstream on the Tuolumne.
“This is how you get through the summer in the Valley ... having shade and having water to recreate in,” River Partners President Julie Rentner said.