Balch Park will reopen for day-use and overnight camping on Friday, June 18. Those heading to Balch Park will also be able to participate in hiking and fishing.
The Sequoia Lightning Complex Fire began on August 22, 2020 and is considered to be the largest wildfire in recent Tulare County history. More than 167,913 acres burned and approximately 80 of the 160 acres at Balch Park suffered damages. However, due to recent fire prevention efforts including a 15-acre prescribed burn in September 2019, and a fuel load reduction project with Cal Fire in 2017, there was minimal damage to the campground area.
Initially, it was anticipated that Balch Park could be closed for up to two years. But Tulare County Parks and Recreation stated Tulare County District 5 Supervisor Dennis Townsend was instrumental in bringing all the key players needed to the table to work collaboratively toward reopening the Park more quickly.
“After the devastating SQF fire the realization set in that recovery and use of Balch Park and Mountain Home would be a long process,” Townsend said. “Due to the great collaboration between Cal Fire and the County of Tulare General Services Agency, the process has been drastically shortened and will allow these areas to be opened for use in June of this year.”
County staff and Cal Fire worked hand-in-hand through moderate winter conditions on the cleanup efforts, which will allow the public to begin visiting Balch Park much sooner than originally expected. “I am impressed with the planning and cooperation between these groups and the inclusion of other agency stakeholders in making this happen,” Townsend said. “It is wonderful that the hard work of these agencies will result in people being able to enjoy this beautiful jewel in Tulare County so soon after the fire.
Those heading to Balch Park must use Bear Creek Road to access the park. Access to Balch Park will be restricted.
Although the campground is open, many of the surrounding areas are still closed to the public due to continued cleanup efforts. Reservations won't be accepted and campsites will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Balch Park is one of 11 county parks managed by Tulare County Parks and Recreation, a division of the Tulare County General Services Agency. For more information about Balch Park or the County Parks system, visit TulareCountyParks.org or follow Tulare County Parks and Recreation on Facebook.
For park fees information visit https://tularecountyparks.org/parks-hours-fees/