California To Close 70 State Parks

On Friday, California governor Jerry Brown announced that one quarter of California’s state parks could close. Addressing the closures, Brown noted that “closing state parks is not a task that gives anyone joy, but we are experiencing turbulent times that necessitate deep…cuts to public services.” Brown also mentioned that he would be working to avoid more “disruptive reductions” in the next few weeks. The parks that are scheduled to be closed will stop services this summer, and all will be closed by July of next year. Last year, California voters rejected Prop 21, which would have provided proceeds to state parks by raising California’s vehicle licensing fee by $18.

According to California State Parks director Ruth Coleman, 70 of California’s 278 state parks could be shut down due to budget cuts. Park closures will take effect in 36 of California’s 58 counties. The shutdowns will span the entire state- the parks that are scheduled to be closed include Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, located in Northern California, and Salton Sea Recreation Area, located in Southern California.

The budget cuts were enacted by a law Brown signed into effect in March of this year. The law will reduce the park systems budget by $11 million this fiscal year and by $22 million the next fiscal year. The park systems budget in 2012-2013 will be $99 million, which is a 40% reduction since 2007-2008, according to John Laird, the California Secretary for Natural Resources.

Approximately 200 employees will be affected by the closures. Tony Perez, California’s deputy director for park operations, said that in order to reduce the number of layoffs, some of the affected employees will be transferred to openings within the park systems department.

California’s state government hopes to partner with local governments and nonprofit organizations in order to keep some parks open, Coleman said. Coleman also announced that closed parks will be given “caretaker status,” meaning that maintenance and security checks will be performed occasionally.

Brown is expected to announce the rest of his proposal to fix California’s $15.4 budget deficit on Monday. It is possible that the proposal could include plans to close even more state parks.

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