Can California’s Parks Be Saved?
As Care2′s Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux wrote here yesterday, officials plan to close 70 state parks across California, eliminating 220 jobs and closing redwood forests, historic sites and coastal woodlands.
This move will save California $33 million, as part of a larger plan to close a deficit of roughly $15 billion. All together, the parks that are scheduled to be closed attract 5.6 million visitors a year.
Californians Angry And Confused
A lot of us in California are both angry and confused. Save $33 million, compared to a budget shortfall of roughly $15 billion? There must be better ways.
From The Los Angeles Times:
“California has had a reputation of having some of the most incredible parks and beaches,” said John Severini, president of the California Travel Industry Assn., a trade group. “It’s one of the very elements that attract a lot of people to our state.”
California’s vast outdoor assets are at the center of its $95-billion tourism industry, the state’s fifth-largest job creator. Those resources produce more than just hotel receipts and restaurant tabs. They generate revenue from surfing schools, sporting goods stores, ski resorts, whale watching tours, white-water rafting outfitters and golf courses.
California’s economy is rooted in aerospace, entertainment, technology, construction and international trade. But it thrives on bright sunshine, big waves, fresh powder and biting trout.
“Outdoor recreation opportunities are one part of the attraction of living and working in California, so they support a positive climate for investment and talent,” said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.
Nearly 40% of all domestic visitors to the state last year took part in at least one type of outdoor activity, according to statistics released this month by the California Travel and Tourism Commission. That adds up to 75.6 million visits to the state and $44 billion in direct spending in 2010, according to the commission.
So Why Close Our Treasured Parks?
At a time when children are spending over 8 and a half hours a day on average staring at electronic screens and one in three children is overweight or obese, we should absolutely not be limiting access to state parks.
Physical and mental health are both enhanced by outdoor activity, and tourists flock to California specifically for its natural beauty.
This is shortsighted idiocy.
How To Save The Parks
There is a solution being considered, however. Two proposals are under consideration in Sacramento. Senate Bill 356 would require the state to give counties and cities a chance to take over operations of closed state parks in their areas. SB 386 would require the state to post a notice if it plans to close a park and list contact information so that anyone interested in taking over its operations could contact the government and get a response.
More Private Sector Involvement?
The idea of private sector involvement in California parks operation is not new. Such arrangements already exist in many parks, with the private sector providing lodging, retail, and food services in parks across the state, as indeed it does in other states.
When I moved here from the U.K. almost thirty years ago, it was the beauty and majesty of California’s parks that drew me, and many of my friends, to stay.
Jerry Brown’s government has let us down and already has allowed conditions in many California parks to deteriorate. We must do all we can to save them.
Please take action by clicking here to tell Governor Brown not to close these parks.
Photo credit: ingridtaylar via Creative Commons