Bidwell Park Improvements – Chico CA


Chico’s Bidwell Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. It follows the course of Big Chico Creek for several miles into the foothills.  The park land was originally donated to the city early in the 20th century by the widow of Chico’s founder, John Bidwell. New Deal agencies made several improvements to the park in the 1930s.

It appears that State Emergency Recovery Agency (SERA) workers did road gravelling in the park, and worked on bathhouses and repair of the superintendent’s residence–SERA was funded in part by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FEMA).

At the upper end of the park, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built a road and the a flume-diversion dam on the creek and flume leading to the park reservoir (Horseshoe Lake), along with rock bridges on the north side of the creek, all c. 1939. The WPA also completed Sycamore Pool and Bidwell Bowl Amphitheater.

In the middle portion of the park, the CCC built what is now called Peterson Drive, winding down to the One Mile Recreation Area.

WPA job cards at the Fresno Public Library describe some of the work completed by the WPA:

“WPA Project No. 65-3-1115, Application Date 10/18/35, $6,190, ‘Improve Bidwell Park E.R.A. project'”
“WPA Project No. 65-3-590, Application Date 3/12/36, $8,242, ‘Park Improvement.'”
“WPA Project No. 65-3-5345, Application Date 5-7-36, $24,618, Sponsor: City of Chico, ‘Improve Bidwell Park by building storage dam, involving earth fill, laying additional concrete floor in Sycamore Swimming Pool; and building 3 miles stone boundary fence. Public Park owned by City of Chico.'”

Source notes

WPA job card, Fresno Public Library, San Joaquin Valley Heritage & Genealogy Center.

Oroville Mercury-Register. Article date needed.
"Forest Boys Swarm to Chico", Chico Daily Enterprise, July 1, 1933.

Ken Smith, "Butte County gets a New Deal," Chico News & Review, May 31, 2012.

Project originally submitted by unknown on June 30, 2009.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker, Joan Greer, Andrew Laverdiere.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

375 Centennial Ave
Chico, CA

Location notes:

Coordinates: 39.761038, -121.791796

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