Last weekend I literally strolled through Bidwell Park. The reason I “strolled” through the park is because I didn’t want to miss one tree, one flower, one butterfly or any part of the creek that meanders through the park.
The beauty was breathtaking. Each turn revealed a new path with 200 foot Oak trees, Birch, Western Sycamore, Northern California Black Walnut, and the mighty Redwood. Then to frame these majestic trees are the flowers; California sandwort, Bird’s eye gillia, bladder parsnip, California buttercup, wild cucumber, and Ceanothus ( a shrub that blooms in clusters of white or blue flowers) very fragrant. There are hundreds of varieties of trees, flowers, insects, and animals that shall be revealed when you journey to this magical place.
Along the trails by the creek you will find convenient places to rest with park benches and tables (with some spaces even having a grill to barbecue). The canopies of foliage are so thick in some places it is difficult to see the sky. I have really never been in a park so encompassed with wild life (except a zoo) that if you blink you will miss some part of the experience that is inches from you.
As a college student we spent many a day driving through the park, hiking in the park, or passed out in the park. I remember the first time I ever spent time in Chico, going to the park, and attempting to tube down the creek eventually leading to a picnic lunch…so peaceful and tranquil.
Fast forward to today and the same energy that is beauty, solitude, and the wonder of nature captivates your senses. The only difference I see is that today the majority of young people are engaged with their phones while the older students that never left Chico (the smart ones that found a way to stay) walk leisurely through Bidwell Park taking in the nuances created by light, sound, and imagery.
In July of 1905 Annie Bidwell donated approximately 2,500 acres of land to the City of Chico. Since that time, the City has purchased additional land, such as Cedar Grove in 1922, and 1,200 acres of land south of Big Chico Creek in Upper Bidwell Park circa 1995. Bidwell Park ranks 26th as far as the size of municipal parks in our country.
As many of us know the original Robin Hood (The Adventures of Robin Hood) with Errol Flynn was filmed in 1938 in Bidwell Park. The park simulated Sherwood Forest, and the movie (a box office hit) also stared Olivia DeHavilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains. When King Richard the Lionheart is captured, his scheming brother Prince John (Claude Rains) plots to reach the throne, to the outrage of Sir Robin Locksley (Errol Flynn, the bandit of Sherwood Forest). Rounding up his band of merry men and eventually winning the support of the lovely Maid Marian (Olivia de Haviland), Robin accuses Prince John of treachery. When the escaped Richard returns covertly to England he joins forces with the King to prevent Prince John from taking the crown.
Today as in yesteryear the park adds a level of peacefulness created by the visionaries that established the park and the town of Chico. With the beloved University so many hold dear to their hearts it is not uncommon to witness the camaraderie between generations because of the bond between Bidwell Park, the town of Chico, and the University… so rare.
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