Jun 15, 2009

Closing California's State Parks, Part 2

Last year the jet commuting "green" governator of California proposed closing 48 state parks. We fought that off, retaining beautiful examples of the state's ecological diversity.

The proposal has jumped this year to 80% of all of our state parks. That translates to 220 parks statewide, every single state park in Santa Cruz County. This is chilling because it is widely known that state parks only cost about 0.1% of our budget and that over 80 million people visit our parks each each year, adding tourist spending to local economies. Call your legislator and the govenor if you live in California or have ever enjoyed a book by a Beat writer. The California State Parks Foundation has contact info.

If you don't know how diverse California is, then consider that the list includes parks on beaches, bays, deserts, woodlands, redwoods, mountains, reservoirs, natural lakes, riparian corridors, and poppy valleys. Nearly every state park that I've enjoyed is on the list. Andrew Molera in Big Sur? Talk about killing a community, that town depends on the parks for tourist revenue. Morro Bay State Park and State Beach? Are you kidding? Mono Lake Tufa State Nature Reserve? Mount Tamalpais, Mount Diablo, Angel Island, and Candle Stick (all in or serving San Francisco)? Half Moon Bay?

We can't keep people out (not a solution anyway), so we'll just have people using trails and other facilities with no maintenance or conservation. No erosion control. No trail stabilization. No rangers to help prevent fires. Fire wardens to watch for fires? No fire mitigation conservation (like controlled burns or even clearing understory that has accumulated due to fire supression). Fire hazards alone make this proposal ridulously expensive.

I also don't think I'm paranoid when I say that once the parks become a liability to the state, they'll be demonized, deemed blighted by unsupervised use (think atvs, dumping, and whatever else). Once that happens, and as the state sinks deeper into "crisis", they'll be sold. I see Home Despot selling the Sequoias of Armstrong Woods IN the former Armstrong Woods State Park in my darkest nightmares. Other results may include the philanthropic purchasing of these parks by rich people/organizations who will privatize them.

Yes, California has huge decisions to make about its budget. But this one is just stupid. Perhaps we should start talking about the percent of the California budget spent on prisons. Or maybe we should talk about entitlements. How much money are we spending on well deserved healthcare for government employees because private insurers are driving up the costs for everyone? Or hell, how about the amount of money we spend on elections and their unrealistic results because of the obscenely misused initiative process.

We need to tackle the big problems. California has been dealing with the little, stop gap decisions since the dot com bust. We've been raising transit fairs while reducing service, raising tuition while packing classrooms, and backing off our conservation commitments for years. It hasn't worked.

Right now we can try to protect these lands by begging our government to reconsider. If we lose there, what will we do to ensure that they remain open space for biodiversity and essential environmental processes that enable us to breathe and drink clean water? Indigenous people in Peru are fighting the government and oil giants in defense of the Amazon that provides them with life and home, and all of us with oxygen. Similar struggles are taking place everywhere in defense of the last bits of wildness supporting all life on our planet. What will I, my community, my family do to ensure that we can all breathe, eat, drink, and be sheltered?


Orlando said...

Closing the parks is not a good idea. When all factors are considered, the net economc benefit of the parks far outweigh costs.

Anonymous said...

What are they going to do, put huge electric fences around the parks to keep people out? I'm going to visit them whether they're open or closed, I don't care. I'll just arm myself to keep the vandals away.