"...the Governor has just proposed eliminating all of the state parks department funding from the general fund and replacing it with uncertain funding from an oil drilling project that has not been approved, as announced in his proposed 2010-11 State Budget."
By Elizabeth Goldstein
President, California State Parks Foundation
January 15, 2010 (Sacramento)--From vast stretches of sandy beaches to much-needed recreational areas in bustling urban centers, California’s state parks system is the nation’s largest, attracting some 80 million visits a year and making an enormous contribution to the Golden State’s economic and physical health.
California’s 278 state parks were once considered the best in the nation, but the National Trust for Historic Preservation ranked them among the country’s most endangered sites in 2008.
How could such valuable public assets fall so far so fast?
Blame it on budget cuts. Because of persistent underfunding, our parks are falling apart. Roofs and sewage systems in state parks leak, restrooms aren’t cleaned regularly, trails are washed out and campgrounds and visitor centers are shuttered.
The repair backlog in California state parks tops $1 billion, and it’s growing.
As if that weren’t enough, twice in the past two years, the state parks were on the verge of being shut down. Only last-minute budget reprieves kept them open – and these were only partial reprieves. More budget cuts this past year caused the partial closure or deep reductions in the hours of operation at nearly 60 state parks. And, the Governor has just proposed eliminating all of the state parks department funding from the general fund and replacing it with uncertain funding from an oil drilling project that has not been approved, as announced in his proposed 2010-11 State Budget.
With more closures and reductions expected this year because of the state’s continuing budget deficit, park supporters (www.savetheredwoods.org) are collecting signatures to place a measure on the November 2 statewide ballot that would ensure a stable, reliable and adequate source of funding to protect state parks and conserve wildlife.
Titled the “California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010,” the ballot measure would establish a Trust Fund in the state treasury that could only be spent on state parks, urban river parkways, wildlife, natural lands and ocean conservation programs.
Funding would come from an $18 annual State Park Access Pass surcharge on most California vehicles, including motorcycles and recreational vehicles. Larger commercial vehicles, mobile homes and permanent trailers would be exempt.
Vehicles subject to the surcharge would receive free, year-round admission to all state parks. Californians would no longer have to pay day‐use fees at any state parks – fees that can be as much as $125 for an annual pass or $10‐$15 per day.
Spending from the Trust Fund would be subject to oversight by a citizen’s board, full public disclosure and independent annual audits. Money from the general fund – currently spent on parks – would be available for other vital needs, like schools, heath care, social services or public safety.
Among the ballot measure’s many supporters are California State Parks Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon California, California Travel Industry Association, California State Lifeguard Association, California State Park Rangers Association, Save the Redwoods League, The Trust for Public Land, Ocean Conservancy, Sierra Club California, Surfrider Foundation, Peninsula Open Space Trust and the State Park Peace Officers Association of California.
These organizations and many more know that, by protecting state parks and conserving wildlife, the ballot measure would strengthen California’s economy, improve public health and protect natural resources.
State parks attract millions of tourists every year, and those visitors spend $4.32 billion annually on park-related goods and services in California, according to a recent study (http://sacstatenews.csus.edu/news/?p=1239 ). Parks also entice visitors to exercise and lead healthier lifestyles, and they contribute to the public health by protecting forests and natural areas that are sources of clean air and water.
Join us in protecting these priceless public assets. Please sign a petition to put the parks measure on the November ballot and vote yes in support of it when it does appear on the ballot. In these tough economic times, this measure would ensure the funding needed to keep state parks open, preserve the jobs and revenue they create and assure future generations enjoy the abundant recreational, historical and cultural opportunities of the nation’s largest parks system. For more information, visit www.yesforstateparks.com.
Elizabeth Goldstein is the present of the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF), the only statewide independent nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, enhancing and advocating for California’s magnificent state parks. For more information, please visit www.calparks.org.
The opinions in this editorial reflect those of its author and do not necessarily reflect those of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial, contact email@example.com.