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Good News Friday: State Parks Will Not Close!

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A California poppy at Montana de Oro State Park | Photo by emdot via Flickr

A California poppy at Montana de Oro State Park | Photo by emdot via Flickr
A surprise announcement from state officials came this afternoon in the form of no state park closures. Wow. A big improvement from the original proposal to close 80 percent of parks last Spring, which eventually was weeded down to 100 park closures in the summer. As state park officials worked on a closure list, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped in with renewed interest this week, offering assistance in the form of experts from the Department of Finance.

The number crunchers dove into the state park's budget, finding a few money saving moves including reducing maintenance and major equipment purchases and by reducing service such as closing parks on weekdays or partially closing a portion of the park. No specifics on the latter savings were mentioned and longer-term money savings will be examined in the next budget cycle.

"The announcement today is a victory for the parks and for the people of California, but shows once again that we need to find a permanent funding plan for our parks," said Dan Jacobson of Environment California. "The legislature and the Governor will have to work together in the 2010 legislative session to find a long term funding solution.”

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A proposal to permanently fund parks was shot down this summer by Schwarzenegger and Republicans. However, that same idea is being worked on as a possible ballot initiative. If it were pass, a $15 fee on all annual vehicle registrations would more than pay for the state parks system and allow free parking for all cars with California license plates.

The full State Parks press release is below.

After several weeks of analyzing Parks’ initial proposal to achieve savings in the 2009-10 budget, an alternative solution has been developed that achieves the necessary savings and avoids full and complete park closures.

Parks’ initial proposal included a plan to fully and partially close over 100 state parks. Several of the parks identified on the initial closure list had among the highest attendance throughout the state park system. However, after further discussion and analysis, Finance was able to determine that several of these parks on the closure list were actually not being proposed to be closed, but were going to remain open with substantial service reductions. Furthermore, the parks that were identified on the closure list included closure plans that differed significantly from one park to another. In some cases, the parks were proposed to be fully, or 100 percent, closed. In other cases, the parks were proposed to be less than 1 percent closed.

To avoid full and complete park closures while achieving the budgeted savings, the Administration can take the following actions:

  • In the current fiscal year, Parks can achieve one-time budget savings in the following manner:
    • Maintenance and Equipment: Reduce ongoing maintenance for the remainder of 2009-10 and eliminate all major equipment purchases, such as vehicle replacements. (Savings estimated at $12.1 million)
    • Service Reductions: Reducing hours and/or days of operation at most State Park units, reducing expenditures on seasonal staff, reducing staffing and operations at Headquarters (Savings estimated at $2.1 million). Examples of service reductions include; (1) some facilities will close weekdays and be open on weekends and holidays, (2) portions of a unit may be closed, such as the back loop of a campground, (3) for a park with multiple campgrounds, one whole campground or day use facility may be closed while the rest of the park remains open, and (4) parks that already close due to seasonal conditions may see a longer closure. Service reductions will be planned to minimize disruptions to visitors, achieve cost savings and maintain park fee revenues.
  • To achieve the $22.2 million of ongoing future General Fund savings that was included in the 2009 Budget Act, the Administration can explore various solutions for inclusion in the January 10 budget to generate ongoing budget savings while minimizing full and complete park closures.
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