California State Parks are winning the fight against closure

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Photo from 'slworking2' via Flikr

Torrey Pines State Park (photo from 'slworking2' via Flikr)

Two months ago, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a proposal to close 220 of the 279 state parks. This was due to the lack of funding California has to offer in order to preserve these protected areas. But protesters against this proposal are now breathing a little easier after it has been announced that this amount will be downsized considerably.

Among the original list of San Diego parks to be shut down were Torrey Pines, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Border Field, Carlsbad State Beach, Silver Strand State Beach, Cuyamaca Rancho, and Palomar Mountain.

Patricia Masters, vice president of the Torrey Pines Association, told the U-T “we’re still very nervous. This could be a big hit all around.”

Fifty years ago, San Diegans placed these parks under the care of the state and now many citizens are wondering if that was a mistake.

As of last week’s budget agreement, lawmakers and the governor will divert $62 million from other program accounts to spare the parks from the fiscal burden. Leaving a much more manageable $8 million in deficit, the state parks are looking for ways to alleviate the debt.

This new sense of hope has spurred the enactment of fund raising strategies that are believed to keep the number of closed parks low. One major way to raise money for these state parks is to offer local agencies the chance to temporarily adopt parks. However, some state park advocates are not convinced there is enough widespread interest in adopting parks. In this economy, local businesses are also struggling.

Other options for fund raising include partnerships to run some functions and closing some facilities during the off-season or on weekdays.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat this. I don’t want to indicate there won’t be a noticeable drop in park services,” Parks Director Ruth Coleman told the U-T. From the beginning of Schwarzenegger’s proposal, parks have been given the authority to raise prices and fees in order to raise revenue.

State Park preservers remain vigilant that this battle affects every Californian and ask that we pull together in this time of crisis. Not only does the preservation of a park benefit the environment and provide family activities in San Diego, but it also spurs businesses. Park supporters argue to protect sites because park visitors significantly bring in hotel and sales taxes.

“You’re talking about a town dying,” said Tandle of the Anza-Borrego Foundation, when state parks close.

The fight over the closure of parks continues, but the outlook is hopeful. As long as the state of California has decided to continue funding park facilities and significantly reduce the amount of parks that will shut down, park supporters remain optimistic.

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