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The Fate of State Parks Could be Determined Tomorrow

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Point Mugu will close if State Parks funding is eliminated | Photo by flismac via Flickr

Point Mugu will close if State Parks funding is eliminated | Photo by flismac via Flickr
The threat of closing most all state parks and a proposal to save them will hit the Assembly floor tomorrow during the budget revision process. Around 20 bills are queued one, one of them asking legislators two park related questions.

Question one: do you vote to eliminate funding for parks?

If that passes, then legislators will be asked to vote on an alternative mechanism--an annual $15 vehicle registration "park pass" fee that would fully fund parks to the point that even parking would be free to the public to those with a California license plate.

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Interestingly enough, the $15 idea isn't a new one. It was floated last year without much success when parks were not threatened to be cut. "The parks have always needed their own source of funding that isn't dependent on the general fund," said Budget Committee Chair and Assemblymember Noreen Evans to LAist over the phone. She said that the fee would help protect parks from funding raids.

"Over the last several years, our state parks have been dying the death of a thousand cuts," Evans continued. "We've reduced maintenance, we've reduced rangers and we've just neglated our parks to the point where they are really kind of suffering. You can really see the wear and tear when you visit them."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last month proposed to cut 80% of parks funding for two years totaling $143.3 million. Under the plan, those parks and beaches would remain off limits to the public while ones operated by local entities and places like Hearst Castle that generate self-sustaining revenue would stay open--however, likely with higher entrance prices. In Los Angeles, all state parks under the state's auspices in the Angeles district would close.

Republicans and Schwarzenegger have vowed to shutter any tax or fee increases, but tomorrow Republicans will be put to that test. "I hope the Republicans provide the votes and not have to close the parks," said Evans.

Either way, advocates are prepared to keep protecting the state's most valuable resources. "If the state park access pass doesn't get approved tomorrow, the time for fighting continues," said Traci Verardo-Torres of the California Parks Foundation.

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