Calif. Assembly Committee Meeting on Park Closures


Posted by on Mon, September 21, 2009

I’d like to share an email I sent to Hon. Jared Huffman, Chair, Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee, California State Legislature. Mr. Huffman is conducting an "Informational Hearing on California’s State Parks: Strategies for Protecting Our State Parks in Challenging Times" in Sausalito tomorrow Sept.22 from 2 - 4 pm. For more information go to his website at

According to his website, this hearing will include updates from state and federal officials on the status of California’s proposed state park closures. The hearing will also examine short- and long-term ideas for supporting our state parks during difficult economic times, including opportunities for public/private partnerships, local involvement, and funding strategies.

My email to Mr. Huffman:

"Re: Costs of Closing State Parks

Dear Sir:

Closing of our state parks and beaches may be the most expensive attempt to save money in history. Our parks generate millions of dollars now, not just for the Park Service but for the surrounding communities. The issue of possible lawsuits for violated contracts is just one of many things (e.g., liability for personal injury and death in the absence of security and rescue personnel) that were overlooked in this closure plan—by the Legislature but not by the park-using public. My personal reaction is "Duh?"

The deterioration through weathering of closed park facilities and destruction by vandals is a no-brainer. Think of the cost of replacing ranger stations, historic structures (e.g., Pigeon Pt. Lighthouse) kiosks, restrooms, water
supplies, sewage systems, benches, grills and picnic tables when the parks reopen. The probable destruction to the park environment through illegal homeless camps and soon-to-be illegal family camping, uncollected garbage, illicit drug traffic and cultivation, unleashed dogs, horse traffic, motorized vehicles, graffiti, beach fires and forest fires is patently obvious. All such damage will have to be repaired, restored and paid for—at higher cost that we pay for maintenance now with the parks open.

In San Mateo County where I live, the CA State Parks have trained and sponsored volunteer programs to teach youngsters (and adults) about natural history of the parks and our state. Entire classrooms visit the parks for these lessons.

Volunteers have also been trained to work with non-profit organizations like the Audubon Society to protect threatened / endangered species such as the western snowy plover at Half Moon Bay State Beach and migratory birds stopping over at Pescadero Marsh. Records kept for years by the Park Service will be abandoned and scientific information lost forever. That too is a cost—none of this work will be done if the parks are closed and the volunteers dispersed.

Also costly will be the damage to federally protected species like the red-legged frog, San Francisco garter snake, migratory birds, elephant seals and other animals.  Several of the parks have programs for restoration of native
plants that have accomplished much to eliminate invasive imports; all of that will be lost and have to be renewed and funded again—if that is even possible.

I speak only for myself: I believe a fee on all automobile licenses dedicated to preserving all the state parks, guaranteeing free day-use to all license holders, is the only solution. And it needs to be implemented now—without closing any parks and destroying the assets we own as citizens of California. I think many, many citizens would agree with me.

Thank you for your attention. Please save our parks.

Suzanne Black
California State Parks Volunteer
Half Moon Bay, CA"

Nothing is ever simple in trying to communicate with politicians. The email I sent was sent back to me with a request to use his form. So I did. First attempt was rejected for length. Second and final attempt was rejected because I’m not a constituent of Marin/Sonoma counties.

There was another email address on his website, so I sent an email to her with a copy of my original email to Mr. Huffman, asking that she please forward it.

I think I understand what makes people stand up with signs and holler at politicians these days!

I hope my message reaches him—or some intelligent life in Sacto. Please let them know how you feel about the imminent closures.

Comment 1
Mon, September 21, 2009 3:10pm
Kevin Stokes
All my comments

Notice how these meetings where the public are invited are always held midweek at hours that most people are working.

This is an excellent email Suzanne, I applaud you! Keep at it and get this on his desk, let us know if you are successful at getting this in front of Huffman, don’t be put off by the red tape.


Comment 2
Mon, September 21, 2009 3:25pm
Suzanne Black
All my comments

Thank you, Kevin! I’m glad to report there is intelligent life—in San Rafael. I wrote to the alternate address on Huffman’s website:

Dear Ms. Callaway,
It seems to be impossible for a member of the public to contact Mr.
Huffman about the subject of this meeting if you do not live in his
district. His committee,however, serves the entire state. Accordingly, I wonder if you would kindly forward to him this message, which I’ve tried to send in other email channels to no avail. Thank you!

The reply came within an hour:

Hi Suzanne:

I am sorry you experienced problems getting through to the office. Our
system is set up for the district so we put my email on the eblast
notice of the meeting. I will be sure that Assemblymember Huffman gets your email. [emphasis mine]

We will be taping the hearing and posting it on our website within the
week in case you would like to view the hearing.

Assemblymember Huffman is an ardent supporter of the state parks pass that was not approved by the Legislature, and has personally advocated for a $15.00 fee added to the VLF. There is interest in taking this idea to the ballot as a long term solution.

Please stay in touch with any further ideas or suggestions and stay away from the form reply on the web :)


Jenny Callaway
District Director
Assemblymember Jared Huffman
6th Assembly District
3501 Marin Civic Center, Suite 412
San Rafael, CA 94903
Office: 415.479.4920
Fax:  415.479.2123

All right! I will keep in touch with her.

Comment 3
Mon, September 21, 2009 8:48pm
Bill Fryer
All my comments

Hi Suzanne,

I thought your letter was great.  However, I do not understand why you would send your letter to Jared Huffman?  Jared Huffman is an active member of the Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee (in support of our parks), and he has proven pro-environment voting record in the California state assembly.  Instead, your efforts may be better directed at Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who is solely responsibly for the decision to close our parks, and who decided to veto the $15 vehicle registration fee increase bill to save our parks after being approved by our legislatures.

Comment 4
Tue, September 22, 2009 8:35am
Suzanne Black
All my comments

Thank you, Bill! I got an email copy of your message but your comment wasn’t posted here this morning when I looked. So I responded to your question in another comment to my Letter:

Someone asked me why I sent the email printed here in the Letters section 9/21/09 to Assemblymember Jared Huffman instead of to Gov. Schwarzenegger when Mr. Huffman is a proponent of keeping the parks open and the Governor is the one who is forcing closure. Here’s why:

1. As Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee, Mr. Huffman is holding a hearing today to examine the implications of the liabilities and concerns expressed in the leaked memo prepared for the State Parks legal office. I wanted my voice to be heard.

2. I can find no evidence that the Governor listens to people who disagree with him.

Comment 5
Tue, September 22, 2009 8:41am
Suzanne Black
All my comments

Oops, sorry, Bill—correction to my last message: I initially replied to your question in Barry’s news story Legal costs of closing parks likely to exceed savings, since the legal implications of the memo that was apparently leaked from the State Parks legal department will certainly be discussed at the hearing.