California Parks Stay Open!

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davaodude/5060874246/sizes/m/in/photostream...

Hooray! A reprieve for California State Parks!

Reprinted from Care2:

Thanks to the hard work of thousands of activists around the state, nearly all of the 70 California state parks originally slated for closure on July 1 will remain open, at least for now.

And thanks also to the over 12,000 Care2 members who signed our petition, asking Governor Brown not to close these parks.

You probably know that California's spectacular outdoors has been going through a crisis: 70 of its 279 state parks had been set to close next Sunday because of budget cuts. At the direction of Governor Jerry Brown and lawmakers last year, the parks department had targeted the parks for closure based on attendance and how much revenue they generated. Specifically, Brown proposed a $22 million permanent general fund cut to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

This meant that 70 iconic places would no longer be available to the public, including beautiful Point Lobos, seen above; historic landmarks, like Jack London and Petaluma Adobe; or my own personal favorite, Henry Coe, not far from San Jose.

But now all this has changed. Thanks to grassroots action by thousands of concerned nature lovers, only five parks will close.

From The Sacramento Bee:

The Department of Parks and Recreation has already struck deals with private donors, foundations and non-profit groups to continue operating 40 that were on the endangered list, including the Governor's Mansion in Sacramento.

Because the state has found outside partners interested in sparing an additional 25 parks, it will keep them open using a sliver of special funds that Brown retained in the budget he signed Wednesday night, parks officials said. Democratic lawmakers added $41 million back into their budget to keep parks open, but Brown line-item vetoed $31 million of it.

That leaves five parks for which the state has struggled to find donors or other agencies willing to chip in: Benicia State Recreation Area; the California Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa; Gray Whale Cove State Beach near Montara; Zmudowski State Beach near Moss Landing; and Providence Mountains State Recreation Area in San Bernardino County.

Even if they face closure, the two state beaches on the endangered five-park list would remain open to visitors but without trash pick-up and restrooms, said Natural Resources Agency spokesman Richard Stapler.

As an example of how this has worked, my local state park, Henry Coe, avoided closure when tech excecutive Dan McCranie donated $279,000 to keep the park from closing. This means that more than 60,000 annual visitors can keep coming to enjoy the outdoors for the next three years.

Closing state parks makes no sense at all: it is bad for local businesses, bad for tourism, bad for jobs, bad for health and wellbeing, and bad for California.

 Almost 70 million people visit the state’s parks annually, and they generate an annual economic benefit of more than $6 billion statewide.

Above all, people need nature, they need the beautiful scenery and vast, open spaces. Why doesn't Governor Brown get it?

But at least these parks are safe for now. Hooray!

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