Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is saying "Hasta la vista!" to 220 of
California's 279 state parks on July 1 as part of his efforts to
trim the state's budget deficit of $24.3 billion. The plan is to cut
$70 million from the $150 million the park system receives from
California's general fund. An additional $143.4 million would be
saved in the following fiscal year by keeping the parks closed.
The parks to be closed include the Antelope Valley Poppy
Reserve, Anza-Borrego, Bodie, Mono Lake State Tufa Reserve and Red
Rock Canyon. Click
here to view a list of affected parks.
According to the
California State Parks Foundation, the general fund allocation to
state parks represents 1/10 of one-percent (0.10%) of the entire
state budget. California spends about $400 million to run its parks
and beaches. About one third comes from the general fund with the
remainder from user fees, bonds, gasoline taxes and federal funds.
attendance last year was more than 80 million visitors with
indications the 2009 visitor count would be even higher. "State
parks draw tourism to California," State Parks Foundation president
Elizabeth Goldstein said. "This proposal makes the budget situation
The State Park
Foundation estimates that parks generate $2.35 in return for every
state dollar spent. This, according to Foundation estimates, could
cost the state $350 million in revenue.
Hearst Castle and
a dozen other so-called "moneymakers" would remain
open, as would most Southern California beaches. The state would be
left with 59 (of the state's 279) parks in operation. But
Bodie State Historic Park, one of the best-preserved western ghost
towns, would not be one of them.
The closures of
Bodie and Mono Lake, which attract 450 thousand visitors annually
and are international tourist destinations, would be devastating to
the economy of already hard-hit Mono County, according to park
Leader Mike Villines said the state cannot afford to subsidize state
parks when lawmakers are being asked to make severe cuts in even
more vital areas.
"Parks are just
not going to be a priority over public safety and education, as much
as we hate to see them close," Villines said.
The proposed cuts
aren't just bad news for tourists and vacationers. At least 2,000
park rangers, biologists, lifeguards, interpreters, architects and
maintenance workers would be laid off if the proposal is adopted,
said parks spokesman Roy Stearns, "When you add up the money in our
general fund, it almost exclusively goes to pay people. If you
eliminate that money, you lay everybody off, so there is nobody left
to run parks. If you have nobody to run parks, you have to close
The layoffs would
be in addition to 5,000 state positions the governor has already
California's legislature rejected the governor's proposal to close
48 state parks partly due to intense public pressure.
Tuesday, June 2, the Budget Conference
Committee will consider this proposal
in Sacramento. The State Parks Foundation is initiating an email
campaign to urge the governor and legislators to reconsider. A
user-modifiable letter is available at: