【KTSF by Angelina Wong】
In the past three days, we brought you the history of Weaverville’s Joss House, the oldest Chinese temple in California. This historic state park is scheduled to be closed this July. And that’s not all. Here in the Bay Area, the China Camp State Park in Marin county is facing the same fate.
Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown announced his decision to close 70 state parks due to budget cuts. Joss House and China Camp are on the list and China Camp is the only state park in the country with a history about Chinese shrimping.
Fishing is one of the most ancient industries. In the 19th century, Chinese crossed the Pacific Ocean to come to San Francisco for gold. They had good business sense. Out of curiosity, they discovered there were jumping treasures in the bay. The bay was abundant. Chinese fishermen dried the shrimps and during the peak they exported more than one million pounds of dried shrimps. Most of them shipped to China.
China Camp, located in San Rafael, was one of the fishing camps in the Bay Area. Frank Quan, in his eighties, is the last fisherman of the Chinese shrimping history. His family ran the China Camp and he grew up here. We interviewed him four years ago. This replica of Chinese junk is named after Frank’s mother Grace Quan.
Although Frank Quan is 86-years-old, he is still strong and healthy. He operates a snack bar in China Camp. His boat “Grassy” still accompanies him but he is not sailing like he used to. He stopped fishing for shrimps three years ago.
“As far as I am concerned, the bay is dead. It’s not getting any better. Look out there, you don’t see a boat, none. Everybody gave up. It’s sad for us because even when ten years ago, there were still a lot of fish, a lot of shrimp. Now it’s gone. I don’t think it will ever come back,” said Quan.
Quan loves the sea deeply but it has been changing drastically in recent years. A large amount of water that flows into the bay is being diverted to Southern California. The dry weather this year also makes things worse. The bay becomes more saline and not suitable for living creatures.
The old man and the sea spend time together for many decades. He still lives in his little house on the beach but the state park where his home is located will be closed soon.
Patrick Robards is an old friend of Quan. Robards was one of the first park rangers of China Camp. He helped to reconstruct the fishing village into a museum and build the pier.
“This is 27 years of my life. It’s my home. I live outside the park now but I still come back and I still feel like coming home,” said Robards.
The China Camp State Park covers more than 1,500 acres of land. When California’s treasury was ample, there were five rangers taking care of the park. However, when Robards retired six years ago, there was only one full-time ranger and one part-time ranger left.
Despite facing adversities, Quan and his friends are not giving up. Tomorrow, we will explain the rescue mission to save China Camp.
For more information about the China Camp State Park and how to help, please visit:
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