California state parks: Local venues aim to cut service
October 5, 2009
LAKE TAHOE – After the recent announcement no California State Parks will close, local venues are looking at other ways to lessen the blow of state budget cuts.
Partial closures of campgrounds, part-time closures and other cost-saving measures are being considered for the Truckee-Tahoe area of the Sierra District, said Pam Armas, district superintendent.
“Of course we’re pleased our state parks are staying open; it’s excellent news. But our budget is still being cut significantly, so that means we must reduce services,” Armas said.
The district is brainstorming ways to save money, Armas said, and initial ideas include closing sections of campgrounds, closing museums a few days out of the week and closing winter operations at Sugar Pine Point.
“Snowplowing and keeping the bathrooms heated is a huge expense,” Armas said of Sugar Pine, which normally stays open for camping year-round. “We feel bad about the Boy Scouts who normally camp there, but we’ll be referring them to Grover Hot Springs that will remain open for winter camping operations.”
Maintenance will also take a hit, so as things break in the state parks, Armas said they may not be able to fix them.
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Elsewhere, State Parks spokesman Roy Stearns said parks that are closed seasonally may be closed longer, and the organization will consider similar partial closures at campgrounds.
“All the supervisors are working under marching orders to save money,” Stearns said. “The administration said they’ll help us look for solutions so we don’t have to close next year either.”
While keeping the parks open is good news, Armas said, reducing the number of available camping spaces will be tough on already popular Truckee-Tahoe campgrounds.
“Fewer people will be able to get camp sites – there will be some frustrated people,” Armas said.
Under the agreement, $14.2 million will be cut from California’s Department of Parks and Recreation budget for the current fiscal year. Of that, $12.1 million will come out of maintenance and $2.1 million out of service reductions, acccording to published reports.
In May, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed cutting $70 million in general fund support for the system and warned 220 of the 279 parks would close, including popular destinations such as the Empire Mine and Emerald Bay State Park at Lake Tahoe.
Lawmakers and the governor eventually settled on a smaller cut of about $14.2 million to parks, with reserves and loans from other state funds filling in some of the lost revenue. As many as 100 parks would have closed under that plan, expected as early as Labor Day.