Monday, August 31, 2009

No Money, No Parks?

While the threat of closing popular recreational areas—or reducing public safety funding—has often been government’s way of stimulating acquiescence to tax increases (County Parks threatened to close the Parkway in 2004 under much less perilous economic times) this does appear to be a time of substantial and real shrinkage of government funding; and with a state legislative unwillingness to address one of the major causes of government shortfalls, substantial public employee retirement packages being one area that could be examined, parks are apparently taking the hit.

An article from the Sacramento Bee looks at the issue.

An excerpt.

“California is on the brink of another American first, this one rather dubious: In a week or two, officials say they will start shutting down 100 state parks, an exercise in government retrenchment unprecedented for a citizenry that cherishes the outdoors.

“The cutbacks – which involve closing the parks much of the year – are a Band-Aid on a bleeding state budget. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he signed the budget, penciled in a $14 million cut for California State Parks, a relatively meager slice amid much bigger reductions.

“The cut to parks amounts to 0.05 percent of the $26 billion deficit the new budget tries to resolve.

“But for many residents, when parks start shutting their gates, that meager slice will be the most visible fallout yet from the state's budget troubles.

“State parks are a major economic engine and source of community pride in small towns like Angel's Camp, Grass Valley and Garberville. Nearby parks bring more than 100,000 visitors annually to each of those communities.

"If it were to close down entirely, that's a great loss to the community," said Tom Stade, a volunteer at Empire Mine State Historic Park near Grass Valley. "I've spent 18 1/2 years here, and I would hate to see it close. It would hurt very much."
“Soon after Labor Day, the state is scheduled to release the list of 100 parks – out of 280 in the system – that it plans to close for various portions of the year.

“Technically, people still could access some parks for day hikes, albeit at their own risk. The cost savings will come from suspended or reduced visits by park rangers, maintenance workers and park aides. The money spent daily to fill gas tanks, keep lights on, print brochures, buy toilet paper and haul garbage will come to a halt.”