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Brown administration announces plans to close dozens of state parks

May 13, 2011 |  1:24 pm

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Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration announced plans Friday to close 70 state parks in an effort to balance the deficit-plagued state budget.

The parks include the Salton Sea State Recreation Area, Palomar Mountain State Park in San Diego County, Fort Tejon State Historic Park in Kern County, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area in San Francisco, Tomales Bay State Park north of San Francisco, Point Cabrillo Light Station in Mendocino and more than 60 other properties.

Administration officials said Friday that the closures would not begin until fall at the earliest and would be completed by July 1, 2012.

State lawmakers passed $33 million in parks cuts earlier this year, but Brown has not signed them into law. Whether the closures will be included in a final state budget this year is unclear, because the spending plan is still being negotiated. Administration officials said they do not intend to alter the parks budget further.

The governor will announce his revised budget, along with new state revenue projections, on Monday.

Parks are among the most popular service provided by the state and have been used as bargaining chips in past budget debates. In his 2009 budget, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed eliminating 220 of the state’s 278 state parks to save more than $143 million.

Schwarzenegger’s list included some of the system’s most popular properties, such as Will Rogers State Park and Emerald Bay State Park in Lake Tahoe. Those cuts had disappeared by the time lawmakers reached a final budget accord with Schwarzenegger, and no parks were closed.

Ruth Coleman, the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said she had no reason to believe that Brown was bluffing. “These cuts come from the governor,” she said. “I haven’t gotten any sense that he is revising his ideas.”

Coleman said existing campground reservations would not be affected, since all parks will remain open this summer. But she said properties across the state would be subject to “service reductions” in the summer months. For example, she said, there will be fewer lifeguards at state beaches and fewer public restrooms open at parks and beaches across the state.

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-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: Migrating birds at the Salton Sea. Credit: California State Parks

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