Saturday, August 29, 2009

Russian ambassador urges Schwarzenegger to save Fort Ross

Stunned upon learning that California might close Fort Ross, the Russian government dispatched its ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, to urge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to save the picturesque wooden outpost from the state's budget guillotine.

"It's not my job to tell the government of California what to do with its budget," he said while touring the fort-turned-park Thursday. "But this place is wonderful proof that the U.S. and Russia have had a very rich, largely positive shared history. We would like to see it remain open."

The ambassador stopped short of offering cash to maintain the fort, which loses about $800,000 annually. No decisions will be made, he said, until the state releases its closure list.

About 200,000 people visit Fort Ross each year, many of them Russians seeking signs of an earlier Russian foray into California. The park is the 77th most visited in California.

Visitors on Tuesday said they wouldn't mind if the Russian government helped keep Fort Ross open.

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