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The Future of State Parks: Partnerships, Closures & Possibly Corporations

A Save Our State Parks Campaign demonstration held outside the California State Capitol in June (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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California State Parks director Ruth Coleman said that the agency faces a total of about $39 million in cuts after the new budget, which directly states a $14.2 million cut, was signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today. Additionally, $2.4 million was siphoned from a cigarette tax fund because less people are smoking. Furloughs and salary cuts round out the large number (Note: a full budget fact sheet is embedded below).

No list of park closures has been published, nor will it be for about a month or longer, Coleman explained. However, the original list of parks to stay open released when 80% of parks were to proposed to close will likely not be a concern because they will still be self sustaining (think Hearst Castle). She said that staff, with a finalized budget in hand, must analyze which parks can stay open and will close based on costs, revenue and legal issues such as units legally bound to stay open because of federal contracts.

Officials will also be using the time to see where partnerships can be developed to save parks. "[The public and local governments] should assume every park is vulnerable. Everybody should step up right now," Coleman said, noting that for each partnership that saves one park potentially means saving another. For example, if the Friends of Topanga State Park raise enough money to save it, nearby Malibu Creek State Park may have more funding options.

Even corporations and private business could get involved. While a name change to a state park can be only approved by a commission, signing policies already allow for recognition. However, Coleman warns that seeking outside money should not be a long-term trend. "We don't look at this as a permanent situation... We should be very hesitant to make any permanent changes."