Budget Cuts Hit California State Parks

Hannah Tennant

In late October, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that the state will cut $14.2 million dollars from the California State Parks funding. This will impact the overall quality of the state parks, the visitors’ experience, and the future protection for these historic landmarks and wildlife preserves.
The original proposition began in May 2009, when Schwarzenegger proposed a $70 million budget cut from the state parks. This would have closed 100 of California’s 279 state parks.
A notice was released on Oct. 27, which announced a reduction of this number to $14.2 million. Park management is taking other measures rather than shutting down state parks.
According to a public notice sent out by the California State Parks, common service reductions will include “reducing days of operation, closing or consolidating park offices, reducing off-season lifeguards at some beaches, removing some trashcans, fire rings, and restrooms at some beaches, reducing the days of visitor center operation, and reducing the number of school tours and interactive programs.”
Each park will make reductions and fundraise independently.  The cuts aim to minimize visitor disruption while maintaining the required budget reductions. These budget cuts will not only impact state parks, but also historic landmarks and museums.
The California State Parks Foundation, or CSPF, is taking action to place a measure on the November 2010 ballot entitled “California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation State Fund.” This measure would ask Californians to purchase an annual $18 State Park Access Pass, and would place additional taxes on vehicle license fees. This money would help to prevent the expected $22.2 million budget cut for next year.
On their website, CSPF President Barbara Goldstein said, “Although we staved off the closure of 80% of the system (proposed by the Governor), and the elimination of all core state funding for state parks (also proposed by the Gov), it’s clear that the powers that be in Sacramento aren’t riding to the rescue for state parks. Well, we’re done trying to convince them and we’re taking our case to the people. CSPF is actively working to put the State Park Access Pass on the ballot in November 2010 and will be spending this fall and winter gathering public support.”
AP Environmental Science teacher Barbara Denny feels strongly about keeping State Parks accessible. “This is just another state challenge,” said Denny. “The State Parks are enjoyable to everyone. Californians must realize they have to do all they can to maintain access.”
These reductions hit close to home. The state will close Angel Island’s bathrooms on weekdays and drop a school camping program. At Mount Tamalpais, two campgrounds and two parking lots will permanently close. Park officials will take trash cans away and lock bathrooms. It becomes especially important for visitors to clean up after themselves with a reduction of cleaning staff and trashcans.
At this time, CSPF is asking for as much public support as possible. The CSPF website offers a monthly informational newsletter which lists ways to contribute. Donations can also be made on their website http://www.calparks.org/.