How big is Bidwell Park?

Bidwell Park contains 3670 acres, about 5.73 square miles.

How does its size compare to some other large municipal parks?

Park Name Location Size (acres) 2000
Per Capita
South Mountain Park Phoenix, AZ 16,500 1,321,045 .013
Cullen Park Houston, TX 10,534 1,953,631 .005
Newport News Park Newport News, VA 8,000 180,150 .044
Mission Trails Park San Diego, CA 5,760 1,223,400 .005
Forest Park Portland, OR 5,000 529,121 .010
Fairmont Park Philadelphia, PA 4,180 1,517,550 .003
Griffith Park Los Angeles, CA 4,107 3,694,820 .001
Eagle Creek Park Indianapolis, IN 3,930 781,870 .005
Bidwell Park Chico, CA 3,670 59,954 .061
Mill Creek Park Youngstown OH 2,530 82,026 .030
Swope Park Kansas City, MO 1,769 441,545 .004
Forest Park St. Louis, MO 1,300 348,189 .004
Golden Gate Park San Francisco, CA 1,017 776,733 .001
Central Park New York City, NY 843 19,157,532 .00004

For a more complete survey, see the lists at the Trust for Public Land website.

Comparing sizes of different kinds parks gets complicated, but it seems that Bidwell Park is about the ninth largest municipal park in the US.


dsc00305How many miles of roads and trails are there in Bidwell Park?

Length in miles:

  • Lower Park
    • dirt trail
      • major 7.46
      • minor 1.96
    • paved road 5.66
    • paved trail 2.97
    • crushed rock trail 0.52

Total 18.57

  • Middle and Upper Park
    • dirt trail
      • major 40.18
      • minor 14.73
    • paved road 3.03
    • gravel road 6.96
    • paved trail 2.23
    • crushed rock trail 0.32

 Total 67.45

Grand Total 86.02

For these purposes “Major” trails in upper park include those that appear on a published map somewhere, e.g. the Trails Plan in the Bidwell Park Master Management Plan, the Butte County Association of Governments Chico Area Bike Map, etc.; in lower park they are any that are obviously in regular use. “Minor” trails are all the rest, bootlegs and the like. It doesn’t include many minor trails which we haven’t cataloged, for example the web of trails that has developed at the disc golf site.

How much is Bidwell Park worth?
A City of Chico Real Property Inventory Summary Working Draft for the 06/19/03 Finance Committee meeting showed the 1999 value of the land in Bidwell Park at $141.5 million with improvements valued at $1.6 million. The total acquisition cost for the land was $2.4 million. The table below shows the acquisitions that make up Bidwell Park. It was taken from a City of Chcio document dated “06/11/03,” presumably June 11, 2003.


Bidwell Park Property Inventory — City of Chico
Description Purchase Price Date of Purchase Acres 8/23/99 Land Value Improve-
Total Remarks
Bidwell Park, General
Main Portion of Bidwell Park $1 07/10/1905 1,894.78 $132,058,587 $0 $132,058,587 Bidwell deed no. 2 (includes “Lost Park”)
Upper Park Ridge $1 05/11/1911 301.76 $3,286,166 $0 $3,286,166 Bidwell deed no. 3
Walnut Orchard $0 03/26/1934 23.71 $1,652,492 $0 $1,652,492 Bidwell deed no. 5 (dedicated by Guy R. Kennedy estate)
Forestry Station (storage barn) $1,500 10/04/1921 29.67 $2,067,880 $37,600 $2,105,480 Bidwell deed no. 6 acquired through 1920-21 California State Legislature
Portion of Big Chico Creek adjacent to Bidwell Mansion $1 02/17/1921 DNA DNA DNA $0 Bidwell deed no. 7 (block 8 Mansion Park addition
Cedar Grove restroom and wellhouse DNA DNA DNA DNA $40,200 $40,200 One story, 288 square foot, masonry building. Land value included in main portion of Bidwell Park.
Lot line adjustment at Centennial Avenue $0 07/01/1924 0.04 $2,788 $0 $2,788 Dedicated by Vandervelden
Chico Creek Nature Center office / equipment and storage shed DNA DNA DNA DNA $224,100 $224,100 Only the storage shed is included in the valuation, land value included in the main portion of Bidwell Park.
400 Camellia Way $0 02/03/1994 0.03 $2,091 $0 $2,091 Property dedicated to the city in exchange for a license to encroach upon the public right of way at 400 Camellia Way.
Bidwell Park — General Total 2,249.99 $139,070,004 $301,900 $139,371,904
Bidwell Park, Upper
Adjacent to SHR 32, east of Chico $80,000 01/06/1994 37.20 $81,022 $0 $81,022 Property formerly owned by the Bureau of Land Management and acquired by the city through a land exchange with the Trust for Public Land.
Upper Bidwell Park located between Big Chico Creek and SHR 32 $2,330,000 05/16/1995 1,380.00 $2,404,512 $0 $2,404,512 Pursuant to the settlement agreement of the eminent domain action through which the property was acquired, the city purchased a 75.04% interest in the property for $2,330,000 and received the remaining 24.96% interest through a gift deed.
Bidwell Park — Upper Total 1,417.20 $2,485,534 $0 $2,485,534
Bidwell Park — Recreation
Sycamore Pool/One Mile dam area, South Park Drive, bath house and concession building DNA DNA DNA DNA $111,100 $111,100 One story, 1,455 sq. ft. masonry area, South Park Drive, bath building; concession and restroom house and concession building — one story, 304 sq. ft. building masonry. Land value included in Bidwell deed no. 2
Golf course, clubhouse, storage shed, pumps, equipment shed DNA DNA DNA DNA $918,800 $918,800 Improvement valuation based on lessee’s insurance vale plus $5000 foundation, etc. Lease w/BPPC. Land value included in Bidwell deed no. 2.
Five Mile Dam/Hooker Oak area, South Park Drive DNA DNA DNA DNA $258.800 $258.800 Improvements include two, one story, 740 square foot masonry restroom buildings and a one story, 324 square foot masonry concession building. Land value included in Bidwell deed no. 2
Bidwell Park — Recreation Total 0.00 $0 $1,288,700 $1,288,700
Bidwell Park Total 3667.19 $141,555,538 $1,590,600 $143,146,138



Goats graze in Lower Park, October 2003

Goats graze in Lower Park, October 2003

When are the goats coming back?

The goats were in the walnut orchard area of Lower Park in the fall of 2003. They probably won’t be back anytime soon; they are expensive and the Chico Park Division has said that, given the current budget constraints, they need to use cheaper weed control methods. They may return in the future but there aren’t any definite plans. See also, a report done for the Park Division on the effectiveness of goat grazing.

What’s the difference between the Chico Park Division and CARD?

Butte County has 5 recreation districts that cover most of the county. Each recreation district is primarily funded by a special property tax assessment district. The Chico Area Recreation District (CARD) was formed in 1948. It serves an area of about 225 square miles, extending from the Tehama County line through the Chico urban area. CARD owns or leases many of the active (e.g., softball, basketball, swimming) recreation sites within this geographic area. Their facilities include the 20th St. Community Park, Oak Way Park, Pleasant Valley Community Center and Pool, Rotary Park and Hooker Oak Recreation Area. They will own and operate DeGarmo Park, when it is constructed. See the park inventory for a list of Chico parks, their sizes, and administration.

See our guide to the Chico Park Division for more information about Park Division responsibilities.

Are Hooker Oak Recreation Area and the CARD Community Center part of Bidwell Park?

The Hooker Oak area is included in the acreage calculation for Bidwell Park and is shown on maps as part of Bidwell Park. However, it is leased to CARD on a long- term lease and they’re responsible for maintenance and improvements in this area. When the Bidwell Park Master Management Plan is updated in 2003/04, this information for this area will not be part of the update. CARD has its own Master Management Plan, which includes Hooker Oak. CARD also leases the Sycamore playing fields in Lower Park. In theory, CARD is responsible for active recreation sites in Chico and the Park Division for the rest of the open space. The CARD Community Center is not a part of Bidwell Park.

Is Bidwell Municipal Golf Course part of Bidwell Park?

As with Hooker Oak, the land is owned by the city of Chico and is considered to be part of Bidwell Park, but is leased to a company that operates the golf course. On a smaller scale, the Chico Creek Nature Center, Chico Observatory, Chico Equestrian Association and Chico Rod & Gun Club also lease parkland; building and operating their own facilities in the park.

Who is Petersen Memorial Drive named after?

Petersen (sometimes called “North Park”) Drive is the road that runs along the north side of the creek in Lower Park. It was named for George F.C. and Clara Petersen, early residents of Chico. Clara left property along Mangrove Avenue, now the site of the Mangrove Square shopping center, to the city with instructions that it be sold and that the proceeds should be used to benefit Bidwell Park.

Plaque at the west end of Petersen Dr. near Sycamore Pool

Plaque at the west end of Petersen Dr. near Sycamore Pool

Why don’t they remove all the weeds, downed trees and debris in the park?

With only 8 maintenance workers for all of Bidwell Park’s 3670 acres, that would be impossible. More importantly, this is a deliberate policy decision. The undergrowth provides habitat for insects, birds, and other wildlife. As the debris decays, it creates new soil and provides nutrients for the plants. In Upper Park, it keeps the soil from eroding on the slopes. For the same reason, when a tree falls across a trail, only the section blocking the trail is removed. Trees that fall into the creek or are swept downstream during winter storms are also left to provide shelter for fish, nutrients and to help slow the water flow, reducing erosion. On the other hand, the Park Division would like to reduce or eliminate some of the most invasive plants in the park, such as yellow star-thistle, privet, giant reed, and French and Spanish broom.


I see lots of cigarette butts in the park. How long does it take them to disintegrate?

Cigarette filters take about five years to disintegrate. Also, since the purpose of the filter is to collect the toxins in the cigarette, it creates a tiny package of toxic substances that’s harmful to wildlife and fish. Winter rains leach out the toxins, which end up in the creek, poisoning the fish and other aquatic life. Here’s how long other kinds of litter lasts:


Rate of Biodegradability
Product Time it takes
Cotton Rags 1-5 months
Paper 2-5 months
Rope 3-14 months
Orange Peels 6 months
Wool Socks 1-5 years
Cigarette butts 1-12 years
Plastic coated paper cartons 5 years
Plastic bags 10-20 years
Leather shoes 25-40 years
Nylon fabric 30-40 years
Tin cans 50-100 years
Aluminum cans 80-100 years
Plastic 6-pack holder rings 450 years
Glass bottles 1 million years
Plastic bottles Never


Table from UBC Waste Management


Click for printable pdf version
Prepared by Big Chico Creek Watershed Alliance