As Many as 20 State Parks Could Be Spared from Closure
As many as 20 state parks could get a reprieve from closure under a bill signed October 4 by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The bill authorizes the state Department of Parks and Recreation to sign contracts with nonprofit groups to operate state parks if that agreement will keep the park open.
“Particularly in these tough economic times, creative public/private partnerships are an essential tool in providing ongoing protection of, and continued access to, these treasured public assets,” said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat who authored the measure, AB 42.
The state can sign agreements with cities and counties to operate state parks, a mechanism it has used in previous rounds of budget cuts.
Prior to Huffman’s bill, such agreements couldn’t be inked with nonprofits.
“We’re grateful for this tool to help keep California’s state parks open. Any mechanism that can be used to raise funds to further that effort is welcome,” said John Laird, secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, which oversees parks.
The California Chamber of Commerce opposed Huffman’s bill, saying for-profits should compete for the operating agreements as well. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents a large number of state workers, aid the bill lacked “necessary safeguards to preserve public access and the long-term interests of the state.”
To cope with budget cuts totaling $22 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012, the state has prepared a list of up to 70 parks for closure.
Despite the closures, 208 parks will remain open, the parks department says, at least 92 percent of current attendance will remain and 94 percent of existing revenues preserved.
Among the slated closures is the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento where Brown and his sister, Kathleen, were raised.
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