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Despite Budget & Service Cuts, State Parks Has an Extra $60 Million, Say Advocates

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A road runs through the Inspiration Point area of Anza-Borrego State Park | Photo by Lars Dugaiczyk via Flickr

A road runs through the Inspiration Point area of Anza-Borrego State Park | Photo by Lars Dugaiczyk via Flickr
In a figurative spanking, an internal state legal opinion in early October said that state parks employees were sheltering $60 million purely for projects that benefited dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and snowmobiles. The money comes from a fuel tax that is earmarked for off-highway vehicular recreation, but environmental advocates say this money can also go towards unpaved road maintenance throughout the entire state park system, according to a California Legislative Counsel opinion.

“The lion’s share of fuel tax revenues that make up the [Off Highway Vehicle] Trust Fund come from people driving on dirt roads to access hiking, fishing or camping and these people should be able to benefit from their own tax contributions,” said Karen Schambach, the state field director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “The language of the statute on this issue is crystal clear.”

In the October 7th legal opinion directed to Senator Fran Pavley, the conclusion was that OHV Trust fund revenue may be spent to provide motorized access to non-motorized recreation such as hiking, camping, fishing and other activities. PEER contends that 83% of funds generated were by street legal vehicles, but 100%--not the remaining 17%--was being used for OHVs.

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The current funding model administered by the Parks department leaves roads in parks without OHV activity in poor condition. “The OHV Division is supposed to administer the fund, not be advocates for one type of recreation,” said Schambach. “With funding for recreation drying up, it is unconscionable that tens of millions of dollars are being hoarded for off-road vehicles.”

In late October, State Parks officials released service cuts to parks in order to balance its depleted budget.

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