One week after the defeat of Proposition 21, California State Parks supporters are facing some tough decisions. The measure would have raised money for parks by imposing an eighteen dollar fee on vehicle licenses. Without that revenue, State Parks continue to face a shrinking budget and staff as well as an estimated 1 billion dollar maintenance backlog.
State Parks Director Ruth Coleman says scheduled cuts in services and hours will continue. But in the long run full park closures may be hard to avoid. “Is it better to be spreading these costs across all the parks and having a really substandard experience for everyone or are we to the point where we really need to be closing some parks permanently, at least for the foreseeable future, and be able to redirect resources to preserve the park experience,” she says. Coleman explains her department is looking at a number of funding options including raising entrance fees and soliciting corporate donations.
Any long term solutions would have to get the support of Governor-elect Jerry Brown who said after Tuesday’s election that Californians sent a message that they are, “in no mood to add to their burdens” with new taxes. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed closing 220 of the state’s 278 state parks but after public outcry he scaled the proposal way back. The state ended up reducing services and hours at about 150 state parks.
Listen to Saving Our Parks radio report.