Dairy Farmer Backs Off California State Park

Posted on: September 17th, 2007 by Margaret Foster

Colonel Allensworth State Historic ParkA California state park will remain odor-free for now, thanks to a deal between the state and a farmer who planned a 12,000-head dairy farm near Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, a town African Americans founded a century ago.

The state agreed on Sept. 11 to pay Samuel Etchegaray $3.5 million for his promise to back off on a dairy farm in Earlimart, Calif., north of Bakersfield.

“I am encouraged by the [Gov. Schwartzenegger] Administration’s full-court press this past week to have a tentative agreement signed; however, I have long stated that the negotiations for the purchase of the development rights and my legislation were separate,” Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto), who wrote a bill to create a 2.5-mile buffer zone around the park, said in a statement. “Now that the immediate threat of the mega dairies next to the park is no longer imminent, I will hold off sending the bill to the Governor’s desk, which will allow time for us to work together to reach a permanent solution for the entire park.”

Former Kentucky slave Allen Allensworth (1842-1914), the U.S. military’s highest-ranking African American, founded the town in 1908, but lack of water emptied most of its buildings in the 1920s. The 1,000-acre state park opened in 1976 and receives more than 10,000 visitors each year.

“This was just a first step in a move to protect the park,” says Victor Carter, president of the nonprofit Friends of Allensworth. “I applaud them for what they did, but I still have hopes that the bill will be signed.”

Meanwhile, in Idaho, Jerome County commissioners will soon vote on a proposal to build a massive feedlot downwind of Minidoka Internment Camp, a former Japanese-American internment camp that is now a National Park.

“The powerful odors created by thousands of animals, plus the dust, pests and potential airborne pathogens, will severely degrade the visitor experience at Minidoka and rob us of the opportunity to explore an important piece of our shared American heritage,” wrote Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in an Aug. 16 editorial in the Idaho Statesman.

Because of the proposed concentrated animal feeding operation, in June the National Trust named Minidoka one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

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