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State Parks Produce $4.32 Billion Annually, Says Study

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If state parks close, Leo Carillo Beach would too. | Photo by Clinton Steeds via Flickr

If state parks close, Leo Carillo Beach would too. | Photo by Clinton Steeds via Flickr
The 74.9 million people who visit state parks produce over $4 billion in direct spending associated with their trip, a new Sacramento State study has found. The findings are shocking researchers considering the state only invests around $70 million a year into the system.

9,700 visitors, surveyed at 27 state parks between fall 2007 and February 2009, spent an average of $57.63 each. Over a thousand of those surveyed were non-resident of California, spending an average of $184.91 per person, or an estimated $1.66 billion.

Spending included parking, camping fees, maps, tours, local food from grocery stores, gifts, restaurants and gas. One of LAist's favorite trips is Malibu Creek State Park where the drive probably costs $5, parking is $10 and a post hike meal at one of the best taco eateries in the county can easily run $12 a person.

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The state invests around $70 million a year into state parks and a proposed cut by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would close 80% of them for two years at a cost savings of around $140 million. "It's astounding how little the state puts into state parks," said David Rolloff, a rofessor with the university's Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration, when reached by phone.

"These are gems of California. It's what we identify with and one of our most valuable resoucres," Rolloff continued. "To make them unavailable is hard to imagine. Of course, the budget is hard to imagine."

In a time when many Californians are looking for more local vacations, the closure of parks will severely affect their options. "We think that state parks fill a huge amount of that kind of demand, which has become a national trend where you're vacationing within a certain radius of your home," said Rolloff. "It's distressing to see [this budget proposal] when people are looking to stay closer to home."