Saturday, March 25, 2006

State Parks in Trouble

As this article from Tuesday’s Bee tells us, many of the state’s parks are having difficulty, which might lead to higher user fees, counter to the public parks essential mission of providing access to the park system for everyone, regardless of income.

This failure of government to provide adequate stewardship of our natural resources, as we see with our own Parkway, is troubling and we will need to begin addressing it more directly as our need for natural sanctuaries increases along with population.

As cultures mature and urban areas settle into patterns of sustainability, the value of natural resources, urban parks, waterways, and bike trails become less of an optional benefit of urban life, and more of a necessity.

ARPPS first guiding principle is “Preserving the Parkway is not an option, it’s a necessity.”

We need to begin considering this principle apply to all of our parks.

Here is an excerpt.

State parks access in peril?
Foundation says strained budget is likely to force higher user fees
By M.S. Enkoji -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PST Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The $4 you pay to park your car for an all-day visit to a California state park barely buys you popcorn at a movie theater these days.

State parks were always meant to be an affordable opportunity, an outdoor venture for just about everyone, but budget cutbacks could turn public places around Folsom Lake or camping among giant redwoods along the North Coast into costly, elitist experiences.

A $900 million maintenance backlog and a shrinking budget critically threaten the 278-unit state park system, according to an annual report released Monday by a nonprofit park foundation.

With less help each year from state coffers, park managers will be forced to increase fees, said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation.

"It could make it prohibitive for some folks to access state parks," she said.

The foundation presented its annual State of our State Parks report at the state Capitol before legions of the organization's volunteers embarked on a day of lobbying state legislators.

Besides the parks' dwindling budget, advocates also are concerned about development near some of the state's parks, such as a proposed toll road through San Onofre State Beach in Southern California, and about a 90 percent shortfall in the money needed to care for the state's cultural resources, such as the Angel Island Immigration Station.

Angel Island, an immigration station from 1910 to 1940, is undergoing renovation, but an estimated $65 million is needed to complete the job.

A large portion of the state's artifacts and cultural resources are in warehouses because there isn't enough money to put them in museums, say park advocates.

For the past few years, fees paid to park or camp at state parks or visit state sites such as the Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento have contributed a larger portion of state parks' budget than money from the state's general fund.

Users at state parks are expected to pay $121 million in the fiscal year ending in 2007, but the proposed amount from state coffers for parks will be only $112 million.