California Budget Cuts Could Close 70 State Parks

SACRAMENTO, California, May 15, 2011 (ENS) – Up to 70 of California’s 278 parks could be closed in an effort to balance the state budget.

The closures are necessary to achieve an $11 million reduction in the next fiscal year 2011-12, and $22 million in the following fiscal year 2012-13.

The $33 million in cuts were mandated by AB 95, which was passed by the Legislature in March but Governor Jerry Brown has not signed them into law.

Whether the closures will be included in this year’s state budget is a point that is still being negotiated as the governor prepares to announce his revised budget and new state revenue projections on Monday.

Palomar Mountain State Park (Photo courtesy California State Parks)

Governor Brown appeared resigned to the cuts Friday, saying, “Closing state parks is not a task that gives anyone joy, but we are experiencing turbulent times that necessitate deep – almost unthinkable – cuts to public services. I will work hard in the coming weeks to reach an agreement that will allow us to avoid deeper and more disruptive reductions.”

“These cuts are unfortunate, but the state’s current budget crisis demands that tough decisions be made,” said California Resources Secretary John Laird. “Hopefully, Republicans in the legislature will agree to allow California voters to decide whether we extend currently existing taxes or make deeper cuts to our parks.”

Governor Brown, a Democrat elected in November, has been trying to persuade Republican legislators to allow a statewide vote on extending $9.3 billion in temporary tax and fee increases, so far without success.

Administration officials said Friday that the closures would not begin until fall at the earliest and would be completed by July 1, 2012.

“We regret closing any park,” said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, “but with the proposed budget reductions over the next two years, we can no longer afford to operate all parks within the system.”

California State Parks developed the closure methodology with three basic goals in mind: to protect the most significant natural and cultural resources, to maintain public access and revenue generation to the greatest extent possible, and to protect closed parks so that they remain attractive and usable for potential partners.

The methodology was included in the budget bill approved by the legislature and the governor in March.

Parks on the closure list include:

  • Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
  • Salton Sea State Recreation Area on the shore of one of the world’s largest inland seas
  • Palomar Mountain State Park between Los Angeles and San Diego
  • Castle Crags State Park overlooking Mount Shasta
  • Bothe-Napa Valley State Park in Napa Valley wine country
  • The California Mining and Mineral Museum, and dozens of other parks, historic parks and recreation areas.

The state operates 278 parks covering more than 1.3 million acres.

Agency officials said that despite the large number of parks identified for closure, at least 92 percent of current attendance will be retained, 94 percent of existing revenues will be preserved, and 208 parks will remain open.

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