State Parks Face a 9 Percent Budget Cut, Closure List Being Readied
Among the proposals made by Gov. Jerry Brown in his January budget that lawmakers include in their spending plan, is an $11 million cut for the Department of Parks and Recreation.
This roughly 9 percent reduction in the department’s $121 million general fund budget “will result in partially or fully closing some state park units and reducing expenditures at the department’s headquarters,” the Democratic governor said in his budget plan.
“The plan, when completed, will minimize the impact on attendance by partially closing state parks during weekdays and off-peak seasons and closing other parks with the lowest attendance and revenue generation.”
Once implemented, the state will save $22 million in future budget years, Brown says.
Brown and lawmakers are attempting to close a $25.4 billion gap between revenues and spending commitments.
California’s 278 state parks cover 1.57 million acres, including roughly 35 percent of the state’s 840-mile coastline.
In 2009, nearly 70 million persons enjoyed sste parks. Of that total, roughly 19 million paid for day use, 44 million had free day use and 6.8 million camped.
No list of park closures has been made public by the department.
“We anticipate that parks will close unless we can find partners – cities, counties or others – who would be willing to enter an agreement with us to operation a park,” said Roy Stearns, the department’s deputy director for communications.
“We will absolutely be looking for any and all creative ideas for taking parks off the closure list. “
As a result of past reductions in general fund support, 32 state parks are now managed by either cities and counties or non-profits.
For example, Los Angeles County operates Castaic Lake State Recreation Area, Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, Placerita Canyon State Park and Point Dume State Beach.
In the Bay Area, the East Bay Regional Park District operates several state properties. Near San Diego, the city of Encinitas operates both the Leucadia and Moonlight state beaches.
Brown has instructed the department to use a variety of factors in determining which parks should be closed. Among the criteria: Cost to operate the park, savings generated form the closing, loss of major concessions revenue.
Parks Director Ruth Coleman walked members of the special two-house budget conference committee through the evaluation process with a nine page Power Point presentation, some pages of which are included in this post.
Some of the lowest attendance state parks are within the department’s Tehachapi District.
There were 38 visitors to the Antelope Valley Indian Museum in 2009 and 628 visitors to the Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park.
Saddleback Butte State Park had 2,803 visitors in 2009. Tule Elk State Natural Reserve had 6,372 visits.
Elsewhere, the San Pasqual battlefield State Historic Park in the department’s San Diego Coast District had 6,459 visitors.
The park was the site of a battle in 1846 during the Mexican-American War in which the Californios defeated a column of soldiers led by General Stephen Kearny. Kit Carson was sent by Kearny to get reinforcements from the American garrison in San Diego, 28 miles to the southwest. Under cover of darkness, Caron stole from the camp — boots in hand despite the rocky, cactus-strewn ground — so as not to be heard.
Without awaiting Carson’s return, Kearny and his men broke camp and marched to San Diego themselves.
Point Sal State Beach, near the city of Guadalupe in northwest Santa Barbara County, had 3,151 visitors in 2009.
By contrast, in the same year, Half Moon Bay State Beach had 1 million visitors, Morro Bay had 1.8 million and Big Basin Redwoods State Park had 701,000.
In November, voters rejected Proposition 21, which would have imposed at $18 surcharge on vehicle registration.
Some $500 million would have been generated by the surcharge, permitting the state to stop using general funds to support the parks and giving the system an additional $250 million in net revenue.
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