At the terminus of Adobe Road, off Balls Ferry Road, approximately seven miles due east of Cottonwood, lies a sleepy 38-acre jewel called Reading Island Park.
Drawing its name from the original adobe homestead of Shasta County pioneer Pierson Barton Reading, Reading Island Park was jointly developed in the 1960s by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management and the California Department of Fish and Game.
Shasta Historical Society markers erected in May 1968 tell the story of Major Reading, born in New Jersey, who came out west to California in 1843 and earned his commission in Freemont's California Battalion during the Mexican War of 1846, state's the plaque that declares the site a California Registered Landmark # 10.
Reading was given a land grant of 26,632 acres - the northern-most land grant made in the territory - and named it Rancho Buena Ventura.
Today, vast parts of it are overgrown with dense raspberry, grape and elderberry vines. Other parts, usually where native oak trees have grown up to shade the ground, are more accessible.
And the aging asphalt access road is still serviceable, but desperately needs some attention soon if it is not going to disintegrate into marble-sized pebbles.
"This is a fixer-upper park, but it has loads of potential," said Pete Stiglich, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, who sits on the Cottonwood Park Board.
But underneath the dry grass, worn asphalt and tangled brush, Stiglich has a much clearer vision of what the park could become.
"We need to look ahead to the future in terms of parks in Cottonwood. Shasta County is putting together a parks master plan so all of our needs, as an unincorporated city, are going to get rolled into that plan," he stated emphatically while showing a visitor around Reading Island Park.
"My eyes nearly popped out when I first saw it," Stiglich commented. "It is beautiful!"
Stiglich's near missionary zeal and broad vision are infectious as he describes the craft fairs, music festivals, baseball and soccer fields, boating and picnic facilities that could be developed given enough time, energy and financial support.
Shasta County Supervisor Les Baugh, whose district includes both Anderson and Cottonwood, has certainly caught Stiglich's vision, as has Bill Kuntz, Outdoor Supervisor for Recreation and Planning for BLM's Redding Field Office.
Both men met with Stiglich earlier last week for a walking tour and discussion of what it would take to rescue Reading Island Park from the encroaching berry vines.
"It's amazing. I hope we can find a way to enhance the park there," Baugh said in recounting the discussion.
"My goal in it is to encourage Pete and the community to draw some attention to it and help them take care of it," Baugh said of the park that Stiglich envisions for his community.
However, with a total of $17,000 to $18,000 in the county's fledgling parks budget and the vast amounts of county-owned land ripe for development as open space, trails and park land, there isn't much left for what is needed at Reading Island Park, all three men admitted separately.
The idea of Shasta County taking over Reading Island Park "has been tossed out there," Kuntz readily admitted. "But we don't really have any proposals from anyone" seeking to transfer either ownership or liability.
"If we can find a group that wants to help us take care of it, we would like to have some type of proposal from them and some type of commitment to ensure that they could carry through with the plans because it is not really our focus to manage parks," Kuntz said.
Aside from a few long-time residents who know about the Reading Island Park's cache of black raspberries that are right now ripe for picking, the park sees little use any more, Kuntz laments.
"We get a few groups that camp there overnight while doing float trips down the Sacramento River, but the limit is 20 people per night for a $90 fee per group," he said.
The group camping area contains no running water or electricity, although it does have a vault toilet, several picnic tables and two fire rings.
A boat ramp allows access for canoes, kayaks and rafts into Anderson Creek Slough that flows into the Sacramento River just south of the group camping area.
But a levee on private land upstream blocks the cleansing flows that would keep the slough water levels high enough for power boats and remove much of the vegetation that currently clogs the slough, Kuntz said.
Anyone interested in helping Stiglich, Baugh and Kuntz move the park concept along should leave a voice message at 530-347-9276.
"I'd particularly like to get some area Boy Scout troops interested in adopting sections of the trail (that loops around the park) for clearing and better public access," Stiglich said.