During my recent trip to Salt Point State Park, which I blogged about here, I also discovered Fort Ross State Historic Park. Prior to this trip, I thought Alaska was the North American trading territory of choice for the Russians in the 19th century. But apparently they snuck all the way down to what is now the coast of Sonoma County and operated their trading post there from 1812 to 1841.
Shortly after our visit, Fort Ross was featured in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, describing the Russian Ambassador’s trip to California in protest of the Governor’s proposal to close Fort Ross (among other State Parks bleeding money).
After reading the article, I was going through my pictures to use in this blog post and a previously unnoticed theme emerged: abandonment. Truly, it’s as if the park was already shut down. There were a handful of visitors besides us, but most of them got lost in the rolling wisps of fog, and none of them ended up in the photos. So it’s not a stretch the imagination to figure out how the park ends up losing $800,000 a year.
We first walked down to the shore cliff, and ambled down this road, admiring the views, which were mostly shrouded in fog.
Then we entered the walls of the Fort:
The one remaining original structure is dedicated as a National Landmark and is the Commander’s House
I enjoyed the visit, learned some interesting new things, and would be sad to see the place closed, but I have to admit that one of the only reasons we visited in the first place was because our camping reservation at Salt Point State Park gave us free admittance.
So again we are back to the money issue. They either needed to guilt me into making a donation (I did return their shiny brochure for them to reuse), or they needed to sell me something once I was there. It wasn’t until reading the Chronicle article that I found out the park might be closed. If they had drawn my attention to this I probably would have offered a donation upon my departure.
On the other hand, the Russians aren’t offering to help out either, despite their complaining. A friend of mine who works for the US State Department and is currently living in Moscow explained to me that:
“Russians get very excited about any opportunity to demonstrate that they are a serious player on the world stage – and a big Fort that shows that the Russian military made it deep into California is a good talking point. Also, even if it weren’t, the government of Russia doesn’t usually pass up a chance to stick it to America.”
So there you have it. My solution? Russian government offers tariff-free cheap imports of Russian vodka to California. Fort Ross sells authentic Russian vodka shots and let’s you keep souvenir shot glass made in China. Win-win-win.The profit margins would be phenomenal
Or they could try to capitalize on the interesting attraction across Highway 1. The San Andres Fault Line: