Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, better known as the “ Home of Mitchell Caverns,” has seen a series of improvements in recent years.
In 2013, California Conservation Corps crews remade the interiors of the park dormitory and visitor center, previously the home of the Mitchell family, as well as made significant repairs on another historic residence.
In May of 2014, new LED lighting was retrofitted in the caverns themselves. The result is breathtaking views of cave formation in the new crisp light, which has the added benefit of using a fraction of the power that the previous halogen bulbs drew.
The park road has been patched and parking lot resealed. The access route to the visitor center has also been improved. Likewise our neighbor, Mojave National Preserve, has patched and resealed the entire length of Essex Road from the freeway to the park gate.
A new well, water holding tank and chlorination system is already delivering water to the park buildings, having replaced an aging cistern and equipment. A new top-of-the-line generator has likewise replaced an older, noisier model.
Park partners are also working to reopen the park. Our group, the Committee to Reopen Mitchell Caverns, working under the umbrella of the non-profit state park cooperating association, the Poppy Reserve Mojave Desert Interpretive Association, raised $10,000 to support reopening efforts. Donations by the public and a grant from the California State Parks Foundation all contributed to this fund.
Using AB 1478 funds, the California Department of Parks and Recreation matched that amount for a total of $20,000. In consultation with the Tehachapi District of California State Parks, our committee agreed to spend half of this money as part of a larger effort by the state to refurbish the park’s visitor center (once the home of Jack and Ida Mitchell).
Our funds purchased two large display cases, DVD player and TV, an interpretive panel, new furniture and other items that will enhance the experience of visitors to the park. Materials for new signage on the nature trail has also been purchased. We agreed to spend the remaining money once the park reopened in the expectation that in the course of operating the park again, new expenditures necessary for visitor services will become apparent.
We are of course disappointed at the length of time it has taken to complete the necessary repairs, which we know is shared by many, including the Committee, the Association, park visitors and the Department. We all know that the remote location of the park is an integral part of what makes this a special place, but also complicates all aspects of rebuilding the infrastructure. We continue to be engaged with the Department to ensure that this crown jewel of the State Parks system is once again opened and can be enjoyed by all.
-------- Committee to Reopen Mitchell Caverns