Was Wednesday's burst of activity at Benicia Capitol State Historic Park a sign that California officials are preparing to turn the facilities over to a local group that wants to run them?
California parks officials still are not offering any information about the status of the historic park, except to acknowledge that a deal to permit the city of Benicia to maintain grounds around the rebuilt capital building is now in effect.
That explains why a city worker doing the groundskeeping Wednesday on the First Street side of the red brick building, which recalls the 13 months that Benicia was the state capital in 1853 and 1854.
State officials acknowledged Wednesday that the groundskeeping agreement for the property around the old capitol had taken effect, but said it was unrelated to a flurry of state workers who descended on the Fischer-Hanlon House to do similar maintenance work at about the same time
The Benicia Capitol State Historic Park is scheduled to close July 1 under budget cuts announced by California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2010, but a local effort that includes the city government is trying to keep open the capital park and the Benicia State Recreation Area across town.
They are the only two state parks in Solano County.
The governor initially proposed closing 70 of California's 278 parks, but several have been saved by local agreements like those under consideration in Benicia.
California parks department spokesman Roy Stearns said agreements between the state, the city and the Benicia State Parks Association were still pending and a decision on whether to finalize or reject them was "close."
Danita Rodriguez, acting superintendent of the Silverado Sector of the parks department's Diablo Vista District, which includes the Benicia parks, said the proposals were still under discussion at her office in Petaluma and at department headquarters in Sacramento.
"We're still reviewing the proposal," Rodriguez said.
She said a meeting about the proposals was scheduled for next week in Sacramento.
Carol Berman, president of the Benicia State Parks Association, said her group worked with a citizens group and the city to finalize plans for both parks, which were submitted to state officials last month.
The deals would be in effect for two years after which, Berman said, she hoped the state budget would have recovered enough to reassume responsibility for the Benicia parks.
Benicia was California's third capital, after San Jose and Vallejo.
The Fischer-Hanlon House, a former hotel, was moved to the site and converted to a home in 1858, after the state legislature had relocated permanently to Sacramento.
The old capitol was acquired by California and restored in the 1950s, and the Fischer-Hanlon House was added to the park in the 1960s.