Bidwell Park Master Management Plan (MMP) Update

In June of 2003, the City Council allocated $350,000 to update the 1989 plan and produce the associated Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Most of the initial funding came from previously approved and funded projects in Upper Park. In March 2004 a Request for Proposal (RFP) regarding the MMP update was finally issued to prospective consultants and the update process began in October 2004. A consulting firm, EDAW, managed the project, with input from city staff, the Park Commission and a Citizen’s Action Committee. The MMP and EIR eventually cost the city $625,000 and only one of the four projects studied in the process was deemed to be adequately completed.

Friends of Bidwell Park has submitted recommendations for the update.

Recommendations from the Natural Resource Management Plan Discussion Group to the Bidwell Park Master Management Plan Update process


Much of Bidwell Park is not accessible to people with limited mobility.

Active Recreational Use

Active park uses include its ball fields, parcourse, golf course, observatory, disc golf, horse arena, horseshoe pits, Sycamore Swimming Pool, kid’s play equipment, Horseshoe Lake fishing pier and Rod & Gun Club. Also see Passive Recreational Use.

Annie’s Glen

This section of the park is on the south side of Big Chico Creek between the Pine St. and Camellia Way bridges. It became separated from the rest of Lower Park when the Pine St. bridge was built. In 2009, a bicycle and pedestrian underpass was completed that re-connects Annie’s Glen to Bidwell Park. At the same time, a bike/pedestrian bridge was built over the creek from Annie’s Glen to provide a safe crossing route to nearby schools, avoiding a major vehicle intersection.

Annie Bidwell Trail

Caryn and Michael Jones proposed building a trail from Bidwell Mansion to the east end of Bidwell Park on the south side of Big Chico Creek. The project was conceptually approved, pending the 2003 MMP update and EIR, but, like many of the other proposed trail maintenance and rerouting projects, it was not studied in the MMP update process. A separate EIR would need to be completed before the trail could be built.

Poetry rock located behind the CARD Community Center

Art in the Park

Almost every year, art projects are proposed for Bidwell Park. There are no written guidelines as to what is or isn’t appropriate so the Park Commission considers each proposal individually. Some are approved for permanent placement within the park, while others are considered to be temporary. In 2004, three projects have been approved–a permanent poetry rock by the CARD Center (installed June 2003), temporary metal wind chimes at Wildwood Park and a permanent mural on the Hwy 99 overpass wall.

Barbed wire removal

Many barbed and woven wire fences remain in Upper Park from earlier times when sheep and cattle grazed there. They restrict access and pose a hazard to wildlife and people.

Bidwell Park Wildfire Management Plan

The wildfire management plan was written in 1991. It was never completed or implemented and didn’t include the subsequent south side acquisitions. No money has been allocated to update the plan and the park’s updated Master Management Plan provided almost no new information.

A springtime wildflower tour of vernal pools at Bidwell Ranch

Bidwell Ranch

In 2005, the 750-acre city-owned Bidwell Ranch (the property to the north as you enter Upper Park) was rezoned from residential to open space by a 4-3 vote of the City Council. River Partners was hired to develop a management plan, using the property as a mitigation bank. The city acquired the land in 1997 for $4M and has recouped much of the purchase price by selling sewer hookup connections that were unneeded once the property was rezoned. However, the city has not been able to quantify the current net property cost.

See Friends of Bidwell Park’s position paper on preserving the Bidwell Ranch property.

Here is a guest commentary in the Chico News & Review by Hilary Locke regarding Bidwell Ranch.

Cedar Grove Improvements

This proposal would provide irrigation, pathways, parking, lighting and picnic site improvements in Cedar Grove. The cost would be $155,000 spread over several years. The Park Commission has proposed using $100,000 of Proposition 40 money to start this project.

Disc Golf Course

Individuals have built several courses on this park land with no city oversight and no environmental review. The MMP update and EIR will determine whether it’s possible to mitigate for current and future impacts to soil, trees, flora and fauna. Also, funding sources for the parking lot paving, other improvements and site monitoring and management must be identified.

Photos showing course impacts on the park can be seen on this page.

A letter to the Bidwell Park and Playground commission [pdf] outlines concerns that Friends of Bidwell Park have regarding the current disc golf site.

Disc Golf and the Future of Bidwell Park, an article by FOBP board member Randy Abbot for Butte Environmental Council’s Environmental News also discusses these issues.

A pdf copy [584 KB] of the arborist’s report on the impact of disc golf on trees at the courses.

What is the Real Cost of Disc Golf in Upper Bidwell Park? An article for the Butte Environmental Council’s fall 2007 Environmental News.

The 1993 Grant Deed from the Trust for Public Land [pdf 3.5 MB] to the City of Chico for the area of Upper Bidwell Park where the unofficial disc golf courses are located. Also, a letter from the Trust for Public Land reminding the city that they must comply with the restrictions in that deed.

The Sierra Club Yahi Group Conservation Report on disc golf in Upper Park.

Water diversion for erosion control on North Rim Trail


The erosion of creek banks and along roads and trails is a serious problem in the park. More photos of trail erosion impacts can be seen on this page. The park has a wet weather management plan [pdf].

Fire in Upper Park

In August 1999, the entire area north of Upper Park Road was backfired to prevent the spread of an approaching wildfire. The long-term effect of this fire on park vegetation has never been studied. Most of the foothill pines and many of the oaks in the path of the fire have since died. There were several fires of undetermined origin during the summers of 2003 and 2004 in the Upper Park.

Forest Ave. Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge Replacement

$100,000 was allocated from Prop 12 funds to replace the old wood-laminate bridge. The new bridge is steel like the Cedar Grove bridge, but with a concrete deck for decreased maintenance and improved traction in icy weather. The project was finished in October 2003.

Highway 99 Widening

CalTrans considered several options for widening the highway through the park. All of the proposals require removing hundreds of park trees–the Park Commision voted to recommend expanding the roadway on the outside, leaving a clear space in the median, but the City Council and BCAG, the local planning agency, chose to add lanes in the inside. Work began in 2011.

Highway 99 Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge Replacement

This project is on hold pending the Hwy 99 widening project. Funds allocated for the bridge replacement were reallocated to the Rifle Range cleanup project.

Rock walled sheep pen on south side near Bear Hole

Historic Preservation

There is no current inventory of twentieth century historic sites and structures in the park, and no policy regarding their preservation. Structures more than fifty years old, such as rock walls and the flume deserve consideration before they are removed or modified.

Horseshoe Lake Master Plan

A comprehensive master plan for the Horseshoe Lake and former Rifle Range area has been proposed. It would address parking, restroom and trail access to Upper Park. No funding source has been identified.

Invasive Vegetation Control

Much of the vegetation in the park is non-native. Some is very invasive, smothering out vegetation that is more beneficial for wildlife. Funding for removal of these invasive plants is very limited. See our vegetation management page for more information.

Light Pollution at Observatory

The unshielded parking lot lights at Wildwood Park obscured the view from the Observatory. FOBP requested that the city correct this problem, which was done. FOBP has also asked the Park Commission to consider initiating a discussion of adoption of a Night Sky Ordinance for Chico, but they declined to do so.

Lost Park

The area along Big Chico Creek between the Memorial Way bridge and the Esplanade is part of Bidwell Park, but encroachments and zero lot line coverage by adjacent property owners have made much of it unusable as park land. FOBP adopted Lost Park in 2013, see our Lost Park page for a map and more details.

Memorial Benches

Park benches have become a popular way to honor the memory of a loved one who enjoyed visiting Bidwell Park. The donor can propose a specific site, but it’s up to the Park Division and Park Commission to decide whether the location is appropriate. Generally, benches are less likely to be approved in Upper Park, where, according to the current Master Plan, the wilderness aspect is supposed to prevail. At some point, there won’t be any more places to add benches so the Park Commission may want to start considering offering other options to potential donors. There is currently a 3-per-year limit on new Lower Park bench donations.


Manzanita Ave. Widening

The road-widening plan that was selected uses roundabouts rather than extra traffic lanes in the park corridor to reduce the number of trees that will be removed. An article about the conception and implementation of the roundabouts can be read here.

Middle Park

The area between Manzanita Ave and the start of the Upper Park gravel road is sometimes called Middle Park, but other times it is included in Upper Park. Although Chico’s General Plan defines Upper Park as a Resource Conservation Area, which limits its use to passive recreation, the golf course, Rod & Gun Club, Horse Arena, fishing pier and observatory (all active uses) are in this part of the park.

Trails to Monkey Face

Monkey Face

This area of Upper Park is very popular and has become scarred by numerous trails and severe erosion. One or more official trails need to be established and the rest of the area restored.

New Trails in Upper Park

In 2001, a number of new connector trails were approved for Upper Park. Design and construction were supposed to take place once the MMP update and EIR had been produced and approved, but the trails plan was not studied adequately during the MMP/EIR process so these trails cannot be built until a separate EIR is done.

Chico Community Observatory

Observatory Outdoor Seating Area & Roadway Realignment

The Kiwanas Club, who built and operate the observatory, want to build a outdoor seating area next to the observatory. They recently added concrete spotting pads and realigned the road into the parking area to reduce glare. A Mitigated Negative Declaration level of environmental review has been approved and the Kiwanas are raising money for the seating area.

Olive Grove

There is an old olive grove south of the golf course in Upper Park. These olive trees are starting to spread up the watershed. Also, Butte County is facing a serious olive fruit fly problem and may require spraying or removal of these non-maintained trees.

One Mile Bridge

Congestion at the narrow bridge over the dam at One Mile causes conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists, and sightseers. Proposed solutions include widening of the existing bridge or adding another bridge downstream.

One Mile Recreation Area

A new computerized lighting and irrigation system was completed in 2005. The lights are similar to those at Wildwood Park. The new system will reduce the city’s water usage and maintenance staff time.

Passive Recreational Use

Passive or unstructured park use includes the trails used by walkers, joggers, hikers, bikers and equestrians.

Prop. 40

Proposition 40 was a state bond passed by California voters in November 2002. Each municipality (e.g., city, county, recreation and park district) received a “per-capita” allotment in the form of reimbursement for projects that met the guidelines specified by the bond act. Here is a page showing how Chico has spent Proposition 40 funds [pdf].

Protected Species

Bidwell Park is known to contain a number of federal and state protected and threatened wildlife and plant species, and species of special concern. There are no comprehensive lists of plant and wildlife species in the park, except for a plant survey on the south side of Upper Park. No areas in the park have been designated as protected habitat.

Raptor Study

Several endangered raptor species are known to use Bidwell Park, but a comprehensive study of raptors in the park has never been done.

Trash abandoned off Hwy. 32 east of Disc Golf course

Refuse Dumping

Gravel frontage roads along Highway 32 adjacent to Upper Park make convenient dumping spots for household trash and construction debris. Lower Park also gets discarded furniture, yard waste, and homeless encampments.

Regeneration of Oak and Sycamore Trees

Except for a few small areas, oak and sycamore trees are not regenerating in the park. Many of the large trees are approaching the end of their life spans.

Lead shot covers a hiking trail near Horseshoe Lake

Rifle & Pistol Ranges Toxics Removal

19 acres around Horseshoe Lake, the former rifle range to the east and a small area south of the golf course were contaminated with lead, copper, antimony and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from clay pigeons used as skeet targets. In 2005, Chico and the CA Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) agreed on an expedited cleanup. The project cost about $2M. The funding sources were a Chico Groundwater Remediation Fund and Transportation Equity Fund. Here’s a map showing the remediation plans for the Horseshoe Lake area.

Rod and Gun Club

The Club’s prior lease expired November 30, 2005. In September, 2003, they requested initiation of discussions to extend the lease for an additional 5 years with 2 automatic extensions of 5 years each. Although the continued presence of the Rod and Gun Club had been controversial in the past, in 2004, the Park Commission extended the lease with little discussion.

South Side Trails on Private Property

A park boundary survey on the south side several years ago showed that several park trails that start at the former BLM property cross private property. One of the affected property owners rerouted the trail segment that went through his property and then asked the Park Commission to approve this reroute and provide connector trails at each end. Approval is subject to the MMP and EIR.

South Park Drive

The middle part of South Park Drive has been closed to motor vehicles for several years. There have been several proposals to also close the section between Cedar Grove and Centennial Avenue. Issues of pedestrian safety vs. public access have not yet been resolved.

Stairs at Parking Area Q

60+ stairs have been proposed to connect Parking Area Q to the Yahi Trail. The project is waiting for completion of a Negative Declaration or the MMP update and EIR.

Sycamore Pool Replacement Dam

The Park Division is planning to use $240,000 of Proposition 40 funds and a possible Prop 40 grant of $260,000 to replace the current board dam with an inflatable dam. It will be safer and less time-consuming for park maintenance workers during their weekly cleaning of Sycamore Pool.


There is a difference of opinion within the community about whether new trails should be built in the park before existing trails are brought up to the Trails Manual standards. A related topic of discussion is whether any of the park’s existing trailsofficial, unofficial, and undocumentedshould be closed and revegetated. Other discussion points are whether any park trails should be open only to pedestrians, standards of trail design for multiuse trails, the importance of providing loop trails and who should be responsible for trail maintenance in the park.

The Transmission Agency of Northern California (TANC)

In 2009 proposed several alternative routes for new high voltage power lines through Northern California. One of the proposed lines would pass through Bidwell Park just east of Horseshoe Lake. TANC’s web site can be found here and a web site of project opponents can be found here. The initial comment period ended on May 31, 2009 but was extended several times due to lack of notification to affected parties. Eventually the project was put on hold.

Here is a comment that Friends of Bidwell Park submitted regarding the TANC project.

A log makes an unsteady bridge on a south side trail

Unauthorized trail construction

The Park Division lacks resources to enforce trail design standards in much of the park. Haphazard and unauthorized construction of trails often goes unchecked.

Upper Park Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridges

A bridge was proposed for the Day Camp area and another at the end of Upper Park Road. $222,000 was allocated from Prop 40 funding for the Day Camp bridge. Both bridges were conceptually approved, but the MMP update and EIR was inadequate in its review of these projects so the funding was reallocated elsewhere.

Upper Park Road

Periodically, there are discussions about whether to grade, pave or otherwise improve the gravel portion of this road, or to close it to private motor vehicles and provide some kind of public transit instead. As park use increases, this road and its associated parking lots may become a contentious issue.


Upper Park has experienced a significant amount of vandalism including defacing and destruction of signs on the Yahi Trail, off-roading by four-wheel drive vehicles, unauthorized new trails and destruction of park property.


In this case, viewshed refers to the view to the south from Upper Park Road. Development along the south ridge is supposed to provide mitigation to avoid impacts to the views from Bidwell Park. It’s not clear whether these required mitigations are being met. The Park Commission expressed concern about the new construction on the park rim and formed an ad hoc committee with the Planning Commission to examine this. Our Park Boundary and Viewshed Issues page has more on these issues.

Walnut Orchard in Lower Park

Until a few years ago, this area was mowed annually. Now that mowing has been stopped, this has become one of the few areas of the park where large-scale oak tree regeneration is occurring. However, because the walnut trees are still very visible (although declining in health and number), community members have occasionally proposed using this area for their pet project, such as a rose garden or a disc golf course.

Tracks on a wet trail

Wet weather trail restrictions

Upper Park trail use by bicycles and equestrians is prohibited during wet weather in order to prevent damage. Conditions also limit access by park division personnel, so enforcement is difficult. The Park Division’s 2013 Adaptive Wet Weather Trail Management Plan can be viewed here.

Wildlife corridors

The eastern end of Bidwell Park is the winter home of the Tehama deer herd, the largest migratory deer herd in California. The wildlife corridors used by this herd and by local animal species have not been mapped in the park.

Yahi Trail Section Realignment

A realignment of the Yahi Trail in the Salmon Hole area has been proposed. The MMP update and EIR did not adequately study this project so it must have a separate EIR before the realignment can take place.