Camping in Northern California: Skyline Wilderness Park
Camp California: I’m talking with Dorothy today. She is the President of the Skyline Park Citizens Association out in California, and she’s going to tell us about Skyline Wilderness Park. Dorothy, why don’t you get us started with a little bit of background on Skyline Wilderness Park?
Dorothy: Well, good morning. About 35 years ago, a group of concerned citizens got together and thought that it would be really nice for us to have a large wilderness park here in Napa, and we butt up next to our Tax Assessor and he was one of the people who helped us. So, we created the Skyline Park Citizens Association, and it an 850-acre wilderness park that the land actually belongs to the State of California. So, what the County does is the County leases that land from the State, and then we lease it from the County with a concessionaire agreement.
And we have a 50-year concessionaire agreement with the County, and it’s renewable every five years at Skyline Park Civilians Association option, which obviously we renew it each year. We run the Park ourselves. We have created the Park. We thought of the Park. We created the Park. We’ve put all the buildings, the fences, everything, because there was nothing there. We improved the Park and we run the Park, and it’s all done with volunteer labor, except for we have a couple paid. We have the kiosk rangers who take the funds in and out every day. They’re paid, and then we have a maintenance man. We have some people who clean the bathrooms.
But we have a Board of Directors and the State has come before the Association, so there’s a couple of us that have put in all of these 30-some odd years. We’ve been going a little over 30 years. We have just under 20 years left on our fifth-year concessionaire agreement. And it is 800 wilderness acres, where you can hike, bike, equestrian ride, and then the bottom 50 acres creates the income for the 800 acres.
Camp California: Okay.
Dorothy: And our bottom 50 acres, we have the RV park. We have tent camping. We have horse camping. We have all kinds of stuff that has been built up by our citizens. As a matter of fact, one day we had one of our godfathers – we call him.
Camp California: Yeah.
Dorothy: Had his own construction company. It’s a great story. The gentleman, as a youngster, teenager, had done a tour around the world and came back to his mom’s place in San Francisco with twenty cents in his pocket. And he built up, in San Francisco, multi-million-dollar construction firms. So, when we were first starting, Adolf would bring his crew up. He would pay them out of his own pocket. He would bring his crew up on the weekend, and they built our very first kiosk. So, he would have them come up and pay out of his own pocket. I mean this is a citizen who believed so much in this.
And I remember one month we did not have enough income to pay our PGE, so he pulls out his checkbook, he pays the PGE, and he says, “When you have the income back, you can give me back the money.” So, this truly has been a Park put together by the citizens.
Camp California: Absolutely incredible. What a unique situation to be in. I didn’t even know that things like that even existed in terms of parks.
Dorothy: Well, not only that. You know, every penny that people pay goes to the Park, and we use it to improve. We have a trail master. He improves the trails. If we have to come into ADA compliance, then that money goes to pay for that. There’s not one cent of taxpayer money that goes into our Park to maintain our Park. It’s all done through our daily use fees and our camping fees. So, when someone comes in and pays their money, then they know that what they’re doing is they’re helping actually maintain the Park, and it’s not going to go into some tax payer fund and go some place else and the Park deteriorates. We maintain our Park to pretty high standards.
Camp California: Right. Awesome.
Dorothy: Yeah. We have on-site a ranger. She actually lives on-site. So, if there’s a problem, they can go to them, but we also have two camp posts, who also are in their RV and they live on-site. And so, if there’s ever a problem in the middle of the night, there’s always someone to take care of it.
Camp California: Okay.
Dorothy: It’s really nice. We have a gated community so that when the Park closes to day use, the gate closes. But if you’re an RVer or if you’re a camping person, you have the gate code to come and go whenever you want. So, you’re secure at night. The only visions you’ll see are the deer wandering around or the wild turkeys, or whatever. It’s a very safe situations and it’s just a wonderful place to sit and read a book and see the animals if they’re wandering by. But we are continually improving the Park and last year we did a couple of other things, and it is really a pleasure to be the President and spend some time doing these things.
Camp California: Great. So, what types of camping do you offer there?
So, we have all of those. We have regular showers. Regular bathrooms. We also have outhouses, you know, punctuated around the lower 50 acres in case. And we also do event camping. So, this last year, we had the Russian Music Festival, and they’re all over in the Bay Area. So, what they did is they camped for the weekend and they had children activities. They had actually a music festival. People wrote their own music, so they could have amplified music in our picnic area. And they ran their program. They had a really super time, and yet, it was very family oriented and we were able to have all of their camping in that same area. So, we not only have our normal campsites, but if we’re having an activity, then we can actually group those people where they have their own area.
And then we had something called a Bottle Rock Concert, which was a huge concert in Napa, and we did the camping. So, we probably had two thousand people.
Camp California: Wow.
Dorothy: But you couldn’t tell because it was so well managed. We had tent campers in one area. And of course I was up till three in the morning, making sure that everything was functioning. It’s the first time we ever did that.
Camp California: Sure. Sure.
Dorothy: We’ve had regular music festivals there. We’ve had creative (Unclear 7:25.4) that’s come out in weekend events, where they’ve actually had their jousting and their tents. We’ve had Civil War come out, and they’ve done reenactments. We’ve had all kinds of things over the years that we’ve done in the Park. And it really is – my attitude is the lower 50 acres is a Park for everybody. So, we try to accommodate everybody and still keep the neighborhood happy, because we have, you know, no music after ten ‘o clock. So, we keep the neighbors happy. We provide for everybody, and yet, if we have campers, that’s our primary concern. When someone comes in, we want to make sure they have a wonderful Park experience.
Camp California: Sure.
Dorothy: And our rangers are really good. If someone calls to make a reservation and we know that we’re having an activity, she’s very good about telling them so they’ll be able to judge. And so, let’s say if it’s a horse-related activity, then she’ll put the tent campers in closer to our social hall so that they’re more removed from them.
Camp California: Okay.
Dorothy: And we do have a big social hall. We have a Martha Walker World’s Peace Garden. That’s produced by our California Native Plant Society. And that is the very first designated world peace garden in the United States. Now they’ve got quite a few. We have, and it’s a walking tour again. That was created by a group of volunteer citizens. We have people who come just to see that. We also have a native plant growing ground, and they do children’s tours there. We have an archery range and the new archery president has our 4H group – our farming groups. Has them coming in and then having some activities.
We have geocaching in our Park. We have a nationally known disc golf range, and again, that was put together by disc golfers on their own, without any tax payer money. Besides our tent camping area for horses, we have a huge arena with grand stands and a little cook shack. So, we have horse shows. We also have a round pen for them to work their horses in, and we also have a little trails course there. We have a picnic area for people who want to do a wedding reception or a wedding there. It’s a really nice area, and we have a little cook shack, again, built by Adolf Schmidt. You can come in and cook food, etc.
We have a social center that you can have functions in. So, we have a whole lot on our lower acres.
Camp California: Sure. Now, if I was staying at Skyline Wilderness Park for an extended period of time and I wanted to venture outside of the Park, what are some of your favorite attractions in and around that are that you might recommend?
Dorothy: Oh, golly, gee. If they want to go Downtown Napa, and Downtown Napa is about maybe a mile and a half from the Park, and there’s actually a bus service that goes down there. There are wine tasting rooms. We have a Historical Society that has a museum. We have a Firefighters Museum. So there’s a lot to do Downtown, but even better, there’s some wonderful wineries up valley that are within 15 miles if they can drive up valley and take a look. We have a huge Veterans Home. That’s a beautiful ground. They have a wonderful museum there in Yountville, and that’s maybe 10 miles out of town.
Most people do have cars. So, in our valley, there’s actually quite a bit to see and do if you want to take a look at other things. And if you just want to come and enjoy and open up a book – and oh, by the way, we also have a dog run. We do allow dogs in with people. They have to keep them on a leash on the lower 50 acres, and we don’t allow them up on the trails, but there’s a dog run. And you can sit. You can just wander around the Park forever if that’s what your goal is; to be able to have a relaxed time.
Camp California: Sure.
Dorothy: But there’s a lot to do Downtown and also up valley.
Camp California: Perfect.
Dorothy: When they come into the kiosk, our rangers actually will hand them information. We also have something called Platypus Tours that actually take tours up valley. So, you could take a Platypus Tour right there at the main gate.
Camp California: Cool.
Dorothy: So there are all kinds of stuff to do.
Camp California: All right, two more questions for you, Dorothy.
Camp California: If you were going to spend just one hour at Skyline Wilderness Park in California, how would you spend your time there?
Dorothy: I would – just one hour, huh? I think I would go into the Martha Walker Garden and just wander around for a while. It’s a self-guided tour. It’s just a beautiful area. And then, after that, I would walk out of the garden, and then there’s a picnic area right next to it, underneath the oaks. And I would sit there and have a lunch. A picnic lunch. That’s what I would do.
Dorothy: You know, boy, that’s a good question. I would obviously stay on the lower 50 acres. It depends on what type of vehicle I had and if I wanted a full or partial hook-up, because they’re there. But if you wanted to be secluded, away from everybody, then I would go on the horse camping area.
Camp California: Perfect.
Dorothy: Yeah. Otherwise, our campsites are situated so that there’s a table and a barbecue at each campsite. And I think there’s a barbecue, but I do know we have tables. And you don’t have to stay in your campsite. You can just wander around. You can go any place you want.
Camp California: Nice.
Dorothy: We are very careful about if somebody is being very noisy and obnoxious. Our camp host will go over and they very quietly, very nicely ask them to tone it down. But we never have those problems because usually people come. I have never heard of anyone being displeased in our RV lot with any of the neighbors. I’ve never heard that. So, it’s six and one-half dozen of another. You want what your goal is when you first come in.
Camp California: Sure. Sure.
Dorothy: And we also have special lots for the bigger RVs, and then the smaller ones. So, if you come in and you have a smaller one and say, “You know, I want to be away,” then we have a little area that’s tucked in away. So, for you to ask me, it’s kind of depends on what the person wants, I think.
Camp California: Sure. Sure. Well, it sounds like an absolutely fantastic place. And I want to thank you, Dorothy, for taking some time out of your day to chat with us and give us more information about Skyline Wilderness Park in California.
Dorothy: Well, I want to thank you very much for calling, because Skyline has, for the last 30-some odd years, been very close to my heart and all I can say is I’m proud as punch to be a part of this Park because it really is citizen led and the volunteers humble me every time I think and stand in the Park and look at everything that has been created in this Park by our volunteers. And I’ve done a bunch of myself. It just amazes me. It really amazes me.
Camp California: Wonderful. It sounds like a special place.
Dorothy: And we are very people-oriented. We want everybody who comes into the Park to have a good experience, and so we expect them, if there’s a problem, for them to let us know so we can fix that problem. Our staff is very, very good at that.
Camp California: All right, sounds good. Well, thanks again, Dorothy, and we’ll get this information out in a featured article to our visitors on our website right away.
Dorothy: Well, thank you so much for your time. I hope you have a wonderful day.