Lawmakers push new plan to rescue California parks
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers gathered on Monday to push a new plan to save dozens of California parks slated for closure this year.
The lawmakers want to improve the collection of entrance fees and allow residents to buy special license plates to increase park funding. In addition, residents could use part of their tax refund to buy an annual pass.
"State parks are an essential part of our heritage," Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) said during a news conference outside the Capitol.
If the law passes, the new money wouldn't start flowing for up to a year — problematic because 70 parks were slated for closure this summer. But Huffman said he's hopeful there will be a stopgap measure to keep them open.
Closing the parks could save $22 million in the upcoming fiscal year, according to Gov. Jerry Brown's Department of Finance.
The plan is the second effort announced this month to provide life-saving funding for state parks. Sens. Joseph Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) want to tap vehicle registration fees to maintain park roads and redirect other state funds to keep some parks open.
“This reflects a growing consensus that the closure of 70 state parks is fundamentally ill-conceived," Simitian said in a statement. "The question now, of course, is how do we make it work?”
The parks were slated for closure when lawmakers approved the state budget last year. So far just Providence Mountain State Recreation Area near the Mojave Desert has shut down, and donors and the federal government have worked to prevent 16 from closing.
— Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: A park official closes the gate to Providence Mountain State Recreation Area near the Mojave Desert. Since the park closed earlier this year, vandals have broken windows and display cases and stolen 24,000 feet of copper wire. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times