Plan would keep state parks open |

Plan would keep state parks open

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a plan that would allow for all state parks to remain open without increasing the Department of Parks and Recreation budget appropriation.

Following the passage of the budget reduction in July, Schwarzenegger asked the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Finance to work together on a plan to achieve $14.2 million in budget savings in the current fiscal year while mitigating the number of park closures. State parks at Lake Tahoe include Emerald Bay State Park, Sugar Pine Point State Park, and Lake Valley State Recreation Area, which contains the Lake Tahoe Golf Course.

“Working closely with my departments of Finance and Parks and Recreation, we have successfully found a way to avoid closing parks this year,” Schwarzenegger said. “This is fantastic news for all Californians.”

According to a memo issued Thursday, parks officials said they can make up the difference by reducing hours, maintenance, major equipment purchases and service.

The original plan was to close more than 100 parks, but officials found that some of the parks on the initial closure list were among the state’s most popular.

“After further discussion and analysis, finance (department) was able to determine that several of these parks on the closure list were actually not being proposed to be closed, but were going to remain open with substantial service reductions,” the memo said. “Furthermore, the parks that were identified on the closure list included closure plans that differed significantly from one park to another. In some cases, the parks were proposed to be fully, or 100 percent, closed. In other cases, the parks were proposed to be less than 1 percent closed.”

The proposal to achieve one-time budget savings:

– Reduce ongoing maintenance for the remainder of 2009-10 and eliminate all major equipment purchases, such as vehicle replacements. (Savings estimated at $12.1 million);

– Reducing hours and/or days of operation at most State Park units, reducing expenditures on seasonal staff, reducing staffing and operations at Headquarters (Savings estimated at $2.1 million). Examples of service reductions include; (1) some facilities will close weekdays and be open on weekends and holidays, (2) portions of a unit may be closed, such as the back loop of a campground, (3) for a park with multiple campgrounds, one whole campground or day use facility may be closed while the rest of the park remains open, and (4) parks that already close due to seasonal conditions may see a longer closure. Service reductions will be planned to minimize disruptions to visitors, achieve cost savings and maintain park fee revenues.

– To achieve the $22.2 million of ongoing future General Fund savings that was included in the 2009 Budget Act, the Administration can explore various solutions for inclusion in the Jan. 10 budget to generate ongoing budget savings while minimizing full and complete park closures.

State parks in the eastern Sierra include Grovers Hot Springs and Bodie State Historic Park in Mono County.

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