California State Parks Back on the Chopping Block



As if all of the local cuts to parks, trees, libraries, and services weren't enough, now we have to worry about California State Parks again. They've had a rough go over the past couple years; in 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger threatened to close as many as 223 state parks by eliminating the $150 million the parks receive from the state's general fund in order help balance a $24 billion deficit. In the end all survived, though not unscathed. The issue persisted through 2010, and November saw Proposition 21 asking voters to tax themselves to save the parks. It failed, and here we are in 2011 with a new governor threatening to give parks the axe once again.

As the Sacramento Bee reported today, Governor Brown has proposed reducing the state parks budget by $22 million, which would result in the closure of seventy parks — better than Schwarzenegger's plan, but still hard to swallow. Closed parks could harbor illegal marijuana grow operations, which often result in significant environmental degradation, as well as suffer vandalism and deterioration that would present a costly hurdle to reopening.

No East Bay parks are slated for closure starting in September, but the list — which was compiled by State Park staff based on ecological and cultural values, historical significance, and attendance and revenue figures — includes a number of Bay Area parks: Annadel (Santa Rosa), China Camp (San Rafael), Samuel P. Taylor (Lagunitas), Tomales Bay (Inverness), Benicia State Recreation Area, and Northern California's largest state park, Henry Coe.

The park department intends to seek partnership agreements with local governments and non-profits, the Bee reported, in an attempt to keep some of the list parks open. If any are indeed shuttered come fall, it will mark the first time in California history that a state park has been closed. This time around it may just happen, so get outside this summer and enjoy the threatened parks while you still can.