Here’s a bright idea: Why don’t we shut down more than 200 California state parks to alleviate our state budget crisis? If it sounds ridiculous, I hate to inform you it’s being considered. Of all the programs our elected officials could cut, they’re after state parks.
What’s worse is that our own Carlsbad State Beach, Torrey Pines State Beach, and even Anza-Borrego State Park, made the list of roughly 80 percent of state parks threatened by the proposal.
More than 80 million people visited our state parks last year; 80 million people who were somehow changed by a majestic redwood, a fine beach, a towering mountain peak or a cascading waterfall. The significance of state parks is far beyond basic entertainment. They represent a feeling you can’t experience on television, or anywhere in the smoggy, congested confines of the big city.
According to the California State Parks Foundation, a group lobbying to keep the parks open, the general fund budget that state parks receive “accounts for less than one-tenth of the entire state budget.” Also, “for every dollar that funds the parks, $2.35 is returned to the state’s general fund.”
“That means eliminating all funding for state parks could actually result in the state losing over $350 million in revenue,” Cal Parks noted. We’ll be worse off than when we started.
Our state representatives, the people who put us in this financial mess to begin with, are justifying the closures because “parks are just not going to be a priority over public safety and education.” That’s Assemblyman Mike Villines, R-Clovis, talking. And he makes a terrible point, really.
How could any of these knuckleheads look at the numbers and think “gee, we should make serious cuts to the parks.” Besides, when’s the last time the state spent a considerable chunk of change on public safety or education?
Something tells me this is largely a political maneuver. Gov. Schwarzenegger is hurt over the recent failure of his budget-related ballot measures. His plan didn’t work last year either, when he proposed shuttering 48 state parks and 16 state beaches. This time around, he’s calling to cut state park funding in half by July 1, and eliminate all park funding by next year. Is it possible he’s utilizing the closure of our state parks as a scare tactic?
Some of the least-used state parks could close a few facilities (such as bathrooms) as a means to save a buck or two. The worse case scenario could be a total recall of the park employee flow chart (perhaps laying off the guy who seems to cruise around the park aimlessly). But closing a sizable portion of the state park system will never relieve a $24 billion budget shortfall? State officials truly need to sit down and evaluate the numbers line by line in an effort to prioritize their spending. Enough of the bullying and singling out of one program over another.
It’s encouraging to hear quite a few people are opposing this scheme. Apparently our senators and assemblymen are receiving stacks of letters, some more heated than others. I urge you to do the same. I couldn’t imagine California without its state parks. It would be akin to losing an old friend.
Visit www.calparks.org/ to learn more about the effort to save California state parks from closure.
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