Last July, the California State Parks department learned that it was sitting on a $20 million surplus. The embarrassing discovery came after the agency had declared that financial woes would force it to close 70 parks. The department got a new director and a two-year moratorium that allowed it to avoid closures. How is the agency faring now? We check the pulse of the parks, and discuss a recent state report which calls for increased outsourcing of some park sites and functions.

Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation
Stuart Drown, executive director of the Little Hoover Commission
Matt Weiser, environment reporter for the Sacramento Bee
Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California
Richard Dale, the Sonoma Ecology Center

  • Carolingian

    Why not return some land to the indigenous peoples, like the Pomo and Miwok?

  • guest

    How long will the ranger reclassification (back to the old model) take to implement?


  • Sarah

    Please do not suggest Charter Schools as a model for public/private partnerships in our Parks. Charter Schools are not available to all students, do not serve all segments of the population, and in many cases have poorer performance than their public counterparts.

  • Doug Olson

    The state parks are a great public benefit and a value to everyone whether they individually visit the parks or not. Increasing usage fees is NOT the appropriate method of increasing revenue. I love camping in the parks but at $35/night I look for alternatives when I want to visit an area. I voted for the license fee increase a couple yeara ago and I think something like that is needed. If it were not for the wonderful natural resources in California every homeowners property value would be much less and everyone should support the parks.

  • Mesf

    Thank you for the show. About the public process- One of the big concerns I have about the public process, is that it will be too dependent on the “special interests”, like concessionaires, unless there is adequate PRE-EDUCATION and available materials at the local level (in the parks and at townhalls) about the history of parks, and clear examples and analyses of the pros and cons of various public private partnerships that might be considered.

    Without such public outreach efforts well before the decisions in Sacramento, the model could well end up –
    1)restricting public access too much (hours or fees for camping or lodging),
    2)overdeveloped for concessionaire profits,
    3)inadequate maintenance and inability to end contracts of concessionaires who fail to deliver.

    As the Sierra Club representative said, unless there is a recommitment to parks as a STATE mission these parks which provide an affordable place for all Californians’ recreation, this process will become a spiral to functional privatization and divestiture of an incredible asset much of which was acquired for all Californians and developed in the Great Depression.

  • Levi

    Many thanks for this broadcast and to Dave Iverson for so ably balancing the comments. This is an extremely important topic for the sustainability and livability of the “Golden State”, now and in the future.
    I’m also grateful to KQED-TV for running the 2-part series on State Parks, first The History and the second focusing on “Where Do We Go from Here?” to inform the public discussion.

    I completely agree with the speakers who pointed out that State Parks as an agency have lost their way. There hasn’t been competent leadership since Wm. Penn Mott was lured away to National Parks. Governors are guilty for having turned the agency into a “safe landing zone” for defeated party members who lacked knowledge and commitment for the task of leading and advocating for the department’s budgetary needs.

    Knowing the strength of the people’s attachment to parks, governors have repeatedly made them the first target for budget cuts, know that, as we saw last year, individuals and organizations would step up to fill the gaps. But this is unworthy of a state with revenues that make it the 7th largest economy in the world.

    I also agree that the needed work must start with a new vision for the mission of what State Parks should be and do. All else is detail.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor