State parks still in peril
July 29, 2009
California State Parks are looking for options as they face up to a $39 million shortfall and the closure of about 100 parks after the passage of the California state budget on Tuesday.
The department is looking at potential funding partners, partial closures, as well as day-use fee increases to make up for a 21 percent cut to the state parks’ budget, said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks.
Next fiscal year the parks will have about $13 million in estimated reductions, she added.
No closure list has been drafted, and one won’t be completed for a few more weeks, Coleman said.
Which parks will stay open will depend in part on three things: how much it costs to run the park, what the park’s revenue is and whether other entities can partner with the department to keep the park open.
“I want to emphasize that we are actively seeking partners,” Coleman said. “Everyone should assume that every park is vulnerable.”
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The parks’ district superintendents will be working with communities to find and build partnerships, Coleman said. Partnerships help share costs so more parks can be saved, she added.
Lake Tahoe is within the Sierra District. Some parks in the basin include Emerald Bay State Park and Sugar Pine Point State Park. Lake Valley State Recreation Area is also in the district, and it contains the Lake Tahoe Golf Course.
“The Sierra District will be meeting with potential partners to see how we can keep these parks open,” said Pam Armas, California State Parks Sierra District Superintendent.
Armas will be meeting with potential partners around the lake over the next few weeks.
If the parks are going on to the closure list, both the North and South Shore chambers will be receptive when the time comes, said Betty “B” Gorman, Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce president.
The Tahoe Basin already has many supportive partners, and Armas said she appreciates their efforts.
Keeping state parks open at Lake Tahoe is important because recreation is one of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s environmental thresholds, and these natural places need to be accessible, TRPA spokesman Dennis Oliver said.
“In order to get support, we have to get people outdoors and show them what’s at stake,” Oliver said.
The Van Sickle Bi-State Park – a planned 400-acre bi-state park behind the Stateline casino corridor – is one example of the recreational improvements to the area, Oliver said. So far Nevada has taken the lead on the project, but a substantial amount of the acreage is in California.
“We can’t make progress in improving recreation without good facilities that are adequately financed,” Oliver said.
The number of parks closed will be associated with the number of positions that need to be eliminated to get California State Parks into the black under the new operating budget, Coleman said.
“It’s going to be very difficult to manage the parks when we close them,” Coleman said, responding to a question about concerns over increased crime and marijuana growth in the closed parks.
But she said they’re unlikely to sell any park property.
“We don’t look at this as a permanent situation,” Coleman said. “We should be hesitant to make any permanent changes.”