I think I broke my record of getting lost when I went to a paint out at China Camp. The first three times I apparently confused my GPS when I entered my destination as cross streets and it delivered me to three different neighborhoods in San Rafael instead of the state park. Finally I arrived at the 15 mile long park but missed the turnoff to our painting spot and drove all the way through and out the other side into yet another nice San Rafael neighborhood.
At least the road through the 1,514-acre park offers beautiful views of the San Pablo Bay waterfront, a salt marsh, and meadows. At China Camp Village where I made these sketches, there are many remnants of the 1880s Chinese immigrant shrimp-fishing village of 500, including one lone, 85-year old surviving resident who was going to be evicted when the park was to close July 1 due to budget cuts.
I wondered how and why the Chinese happened to immigrate to this out-of-the-way spot. According to this interesting story, they first came for the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. Those immigrants were mostly wealthy, successful merchants, skilled artisans, and fishermen. Then another larger group came to work as laborers to build the railroads.
China Camp is one of the 70 California parks the state was going to close, but thanks to the governor allocating new funds for the parks, nonprofits (like Friends of China Camp), and local government support, it looks like 65 of the 70 parks will stay open…at least for a year or two.
This is good news for Frank Quan who is 85 years old and the last living resident of China Camp. He has lived there his whole life, a third generation ancestor of the original inhabitants. He was to be evicted from his tiny wooden shack on the shore of San Pablo Bay when the park closed. His family has occupied the same house in the park since 1890 and he still runs the funky little snack shop next door, Acme Cafe (photo), like his mother and aunt before him.