State won’t close parks, will cut their budgets instead

By on Fri, September 25, 2009

The governor’s office has announced it will not close California’s state parks, but will cut $12.1 million from their maintenance and equipment budgets, and $2.1 million by cutting days and hours of operation at some parks.

The LA Times reports that this is not exactly a reason to cheer:

The California State Parks Foundation, which has figured prominently in the struggle to keep parks open, responded to the governor’s plan suspiciously and placed this statement on its website: "While the Governor has found a clever way to get political cover on this issue, it’s not clear that this plan won’t actually leave Californians with just as limited access to their state parks as if they had been fully closed.

"The ‘found money’ here is from having less lifeguards on state beaches, not maintaining restrooms, not staffing parks for health and safety standards, etc. And you’ll see at the end of the release, a $22-million cut in next year’s budget is still on the horizon."

Comment 1
Fri, September 25, 2009 3:47pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

The following was contributed by Suzanne Black in a letter was posted before I released this one.

Below is the memo from the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Finance outlining the budget solution:

Date: September 24, 2009

To:  Paul Feist, Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary

From:  Ruth Coleman, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation

      Ana Matosantos, Chief Deputy Director, Department of Finance

Subject: Solution to Avoid Park Closures

After several weeks of analyzing Parks’ initial proposal to achieve savings in the 2009-10 budget, an alternative solution has been developed that achieves the necessary savings and avoids full and complete park closures.

Parks’ initial proposal included a plan to fully and partially close over 100 state parks. Several of the parks identified on the initial closure list had among the highest attendance throughout the state park system. However, after further discussion and analysis, Finance was able to determine that several of these parks on the closure list were actually not being proposed to be closed, but were going to remain open with substantial service reductions. Furthermore, the parks that were identified on the closure list included closure plans that differed significantly from one park to another. In some cases, the parks were proposed to be fully, or 100 percent, closed. In other cases, the parks were proposed to be less than 1 percent closed.

To avoid full and complete park closures while achieving the budgeted savings, the Administration can take the following actions:

In the current fiscal year, Parks can achieve one-time budget savings in the following manner:

  * Maintenance and Equipment: Reduce ongoing maintenance for the remainder of 2009-10 and eliminate all major equipment purchases, such as vehicle replacements. (Savings estimated at $12.1 million)
  * Service Reductions: Reducing hours and/or days of operation at most State Park units, reducing expenditures on seasonal staff, reducing staffing and operations at Headquarters (Savings estimated at $2.1 million). Examples of service reductions include; (1) some facilities will close weekdays and be open on weekends and holidays, (2) portions of a unit may be closed, such as the back loop of a campground, (3) for a park with multiple campgrounds, one whole campground or day use facility may be closed while the rest of the park remains open, and (4) parks that already close due to seasonal conditions may see a longer closure. Service reductions will be planned to minimize disruptions to visitors, achieve cost savings and maintain park fee revenues.

To achieve the $22.2 million of ongoing future General Fund savings that was included in the 2009 Budget Act, the Administration can explore various solutions for inclusion in the January 10 budget to generate ongoing budget savings while minimizing full and complete park closures.