Feds could seize Calif. parks if closed by budget
July 1, 2009
SACRAMENTO – California officials said Wednesday they are trying to avert the federal government’s threat to seize six parks that could be closed to help reduce the state’s ballooning budget deficit.
National Park Service Regional Director Jonathan Jarvis warned in a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that all six occupy former federal land that could revert to the U.S. government if the state fails to keep the parks open.
The sites are Angel Island, a former federal military and immigration facility in San Francisco Bay; the top of Mount Diablo east of San Francisco, where the Navy once operated a microwave relay station; Point Sur State Historic Park in coastal Big Sur; and three beaches – Fort Ord Dunes near Monterey, Point Mugu State Park near Malibu, and Border Fields along the Mexican border.
The properties are among the 220 state parks Schwarzenegger has proposed closing to save $143 million. Legislators are considering the move as part of efforts to close a $26 billion budget deficit.
The Republican governor has rejected Democratic proposals to add a $15 fee to annual vehicle registrations to raise money to run the parks.
“Lands conveyed to the State under the Federal Lands to Parks Program must be open for public park and recreation use in perpetuity as a condition of the deed,” Jarvis warned in a June 8 letter to Schwarzenegger made public Wednesday.
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The state could also lose future parks funding, Jarvis warned. California has received $286 million from the federal government since 1965 benefiting 67 parks on Schwarzenegger’s closure list, Jarvis said.
Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Lisa Page said state parks director Ruth Coleman was talking with Jarvis about the issues raised. “They are discussing a variety of outcomes and solutions depending on what final budget package is passed by the Legislature,” Page said.
The National Park Service’s California project manager, David Siegenthaler, said reducing the parks’ hours or days of operation, for example, could save money while allowing public use during peak periods.
“We want to work with them to see what those options might be, because we don’t want to close parks, and I’m sure they don’t want to either,” Siegenthaler said.