Guest View: It doesn’t make sense to close our state parks
We have been working alongside our partners at the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority (LTVA) and the North Shore Resort Association and Chamber of Commerce to oppose Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposal to close 220 state parks including Emerald Bay, Lake Valley, D.L. Bliss, Mono Lake, Donner Memorial and Kings Beach State Parks. While we recognize that drastic times ($24 billion deficit) require drastic measures, this is a drastic measure that will not reap positive measurable results. In fact, based upon reliable statistics and research, it will cost the state in sales tax revenue and loss of jobs. Since the parks budget line item ($150 million) in the general fund only represents one-tenth of one percent of the entire state budget, and every dollar spent generates $2.35 back to the state’s general fund (more than $300 million), it is mystifying why the governor would choose to punish citizens by removing access to the assets they own. Why not ask the citizens for potential solutions and partnerships?
A study completed by Sacramento State University over the past two years indicates that more than 79 million annual state park visitors spend an average of $4.32 billion per year in park-related expenditures. It was further estimated that every park visitor spends an average of $57.63 per visit, with more than 50 percent of that actually being spent in communities located outside the park. Of the visitors surveyed, 12 percent were non-residents of California, and their average spending per person was $185. Based on the calculated $4.32 billion in park-related visitor expenditures per year, $1.66 billion was thus generated by non-residents of California. And we would be remiss to not point out that iconic parks such as Emerald Bay are actually the draw to bring those visitors to the United States and California in the first place.
Recognizing the fiscal impact these closures will have upon our community, we have been communicating with both Assemblyman Gaines and Sen. Cox to advise them that their constituents in the Lake Tahoe Basin are opposed to the Governor’s proposal.
We have also sent out a link to our 750-plus members asking them to visit the California State Parks Foundation Web site at http://www.calparks.org, where there is significant background information, as well as an easy way to send your own letter of opposition to the governor, Gaines and Cox.
Just this week, Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation, a private non-profit, was quoted in the Capitol Weekly as calling the plan “penny-wise and pound-foolish” and indicated that the two-year park closure could create all sorts of other problems. Marijuana-growing, poaching and vandalism are already problems in state parks, and are certain to grow worse as supervision decreases. Many state parks also contain museums with valuable art, historic artifacts and other displays. “They’re going to lock the door, set the alarm and walk away for two years?” Goldstein asked. “It may cost us more money to reopen these places than it would have cost us to maintain them.”
A final thought for the community is to contemplate what it would take for us to overcome the stigma that Emerald Bay is closed. I believe it would be akin to the PR effort that was undertaken by the LTVA and this chamber after the Angora fire, when we had to convince potential visitors that our community was still open for business and that they could enjoy the lake.
Please join the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce and voice your opinion on this vital issue.
– Betty “B” Gorman is president and CEO of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce.
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