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Schwarzenegger Takes a Renewed Interest in Saving State Parks

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Photo by cgodley via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr

Photo by cgodley via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
Good news comes today as Governor Arnold Schwarzegger's office announced that plans to close state parks have changed. Fewer parks will close and plans to release a list of those parks has been dropped.

Although the Governor's office is downplaying the shift in direction, the Mercury News juxtaposes it with this point: "In recent weeks, the prospect that Schwarzenegger would become the first governor in the 108-year history of the state parks system to close a state park to save money has prompted protests, letters from the public, critical newspaper editorials and requests from Republican lawmakers in rural districts that their parks not be closed because of the loss to tourism. An internal memo from state lawyers even said it could expose California taxpayers to millions in lawsuits."

Speaking from Sacramento to LAist, California State Parks Deputy Director of Communications Roy Stearns says he welcomes the assistance from the governor's office, which will re-examine the budget in all areas to find efficiencies in hopes of reducing the number of closures. "I think it's very open ended now as we take this second look," explained Stearns. "That in itself is good news as we are trying to eliminate a good part of that list."

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Facing a $24 billion state budget deficit, Schwarzenegger proposed eliminating the state parks' budget for two years. That meant 80 percent of all parks with the rest surviving because of the revenues they generate. The legislature did not feel the same, but still cut some of the parks' budget when it was submitted to the Governor who in turn, used his vetoing power to cut more money, enough to close around 100 parks.

That sent parks officials seeking partners to help save parks, an effort that failed. They planned to publish a list of parks schedule to close after Labor Day, but that was repeatedly pushed, until today's renewed interest.

"We're asking, 'Can we get to the same destination by a different route?'" a state finance department spokesperson told the Mercury News.

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