California State Parks announces closure of 70 parks
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The California Department of Parks and Recreation announced Friday a plan to close 70 of its 278 state parks and recreation areas beginning in 2012. None of Lake Tahoe’s state-run parks or recreation are slated for closure.
“Fortunately, the basin parks didn’t fall into this particular list, which is great,” said acting Sierra District superintendent Matt Greene.
The closures are due to more than $30 million in cuts over the next two years to the department’s budget.
“We regret closing any park,” said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, in a statement. “But with the proposed budget reductions over the next two years, we can no longer afford to operate all parks within the system.”
According to the press release issued by the department, six criteria were used to determine which parks should be closed: statewide significance, visitation, fiscal strength, ability to physically close, existing partnerships, infrastructure and land use restrictions.
The department’s goals surrounding the closures are to protect the most significant natural and cultural resources as well as the closed parks and maintain as much public access and revenue as possible, according to the statement. Though more than a quarter of California’s parks will close, at least 92 percent of attendance and 94 percent of revenue will be retained.
“These cuts are unfortunate, but the state’s current budget crisis demands that tough decisions be made,” said secretary of the California Resources Agency John Laird. “Hopefully, Republicans in the legislature will agree to allow California voters to decide whether we extend currently existing taxes or make deeper cuts to our parks.”
Non-profits like the Sierra State Parks Foundation helped Tahoe’s parks avoid closure, Greene said.
“I want to give credit to all non-profits for keeping our parks off this list,” he said. “Not only Sierra State Parks Foundation, but all the non-profits that help out our parks.”
The non-profits are a great way for individuals to support specific parks without donating to the state, Greene said.
The parks and recreation department will continue to seek partnerships with public and private entities to operate the parks.
“With this announcement, we can begin to seek additional partnership agreements to keep open as many parks as possible,” Coleman said. “We already have 32 operating agreements with our partners – cities, counties and non-profits – to operate state parks, and will be working statewide to expand that successful template.”
The department believes the methodology used preserves the “diversity of experiences wanted by visitors across the state,” meaning not all of one type of park, such as state beaches, state nature reserves or state historic parks, will be closed, the release stated.