hdpublicplaces-modThis just in: the state Department of Parks and Recreation says it’s got 65 deals going to keep parks open. Forty of those deals are signed; 25 more are still in the negotiation phase.

Candlestick Point in San Francisco, recently left for dead, is now annotated as “California State Parks Foundation exploring options” on the master list.

Benicia State Recreation Area, a favorite for locals to get some exercise. It’s technically on the closure list, but practically speaking, it’s open. (Credit: KQED/Rachael Myrow)

That leaves just five parks with “no partnership, donor or concession agreement,” as the department puts it. But acting spokesman Clark Blanchard says he’s not even willing to count out the Last Five: Benicia State Recreation Area, the California Mining and Mineral Museum, Gray Whale Cove State Beach, Providence Mountains State Recreation Area and Zmudowski State Beach.

And groups like the Sierra Club (“At last some good news!”) and the Natural Resources Defense Council are cheering the language tucked in the Governor’s budget summary out today that $10 million in additional dollars will allows the Parks Department to stretch out rescue- deal talks past July 1st.

Another $13 million will help the agency bolster its bottom line with capital improvements like credit card readers for parking fees and solar panels to reduce the energy bill in far-flung properties.

As California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman put it on KQED Public Radio’s Forum show the other day, “We’re going to continue looking as long as we possibly can to infuse some level of human energy into every one of these parks.”

I went down to Benicia earlier this week, and saw a steady stream of locals enjoying the paved walkway wedged between the 780 and the Southampton Bay Wetland Natural Preserve.  Bob Berman of the Benicia State Parks Association told me a couple of new gates will go up to block vehicles on Sunday, but most people walk, jog or cycle in. So what will change?  Locals say fewer fishermen will show up for salmon season when that starts in a couple of weeks.  It depends on how heavy your tackle is, because you’ll have to walk in with it.

There has got to be a better revenue collection system. The Parks Department agrees. (Credit: KQED/Rachael Myrow)

As I’m going to report for the California Report Friday, many of the rescue deals are only for one year, held together with duct tape and rubber bands.  These local groups and the California State Parks Foundation are raising lots and lots of private donations, but depending on the park, those donations give local lovers of California wildlife and history another one to five years.

For example, Sacramento’s 1877 Victorian Governor’s Mansion will remain open, thanks to local donations from organizations as varied as the grocery chain Raley’s and the Church of Scientology. (The Church owned a building opposite the mansion and apparently still holds a soft spot for the former home of 13 governors and their families.)

MyDesert.com reports The Palm Desert City Council voted last week 5-0 to approve a $10,000 grant to the Sea And Desert Interpretive Association’s move to keep the Salton Sea State Recreation Area open past June 30.

A number of art galleries on First Street in Benicia are still raising money in hopes of saving the Recreation Area. The Benicia Plein Air Gallery has a whole wall with wilderness inspired art. 40% of the profits go to support the Association’s efforts. The oil refiner Vallero gave $3,000.

So again, what can people expect from not-really-closed parks? Padlocked bathrooms, overflowing trash, and a scarcity of people in uniform. But don’t get rid of your fishing tackle just yet.

  • The scheme crafted by an environmental activist and the
    California Parks Foundation to terminate a 40-year partnership with the Forest
    Service and Bureau of Land Management was signed into law by Governor Brown on
    June 27, 2012.  The “Sustainable Parks
    Initiative” has as its core tenet a politically motivated directive that
    functionally eliminates the user-pay/user-benefit grant funding from the
    California State Park’s Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division to local
    and federal agencies that manage OHV recreation.   Nothing here to be proud of.


Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow is KQED's South Bay arts reporter, covering arts and culture in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. She also guest hosts for  The California Report and Forum, files stories for NPR and hosts a podcast called Love in the Digital Age.

Her passion for public radio was born as an undergrad at the University of California at Berkeley, writing movie reviews for KALX-FM. After finishing one degree in English, she got another in journalism, landed a job at Marketplace in Los Angeles, and another at KPCC, before returning to the Bay Area to work at KQED.

She spent more than seven years hosting The California Report, and over the past 20 years has won a Peabody and three Edward R. Murrow Awards (one for covering the MTA Strike, her first assignment as a full-time reporter in 2000 as well as numerous other honors including from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television News Directors Association and the LA Press Club.
Follow @rachaelmyrow

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