California lawmakers advance two-year moratorium on park closures
In the fallout from the state parks funding scandal, the California Senate on Thursday approved a two-year moratorium on park closures and allocated $30 million in surplus funds to keep facilities operating, one-third of which would match private donations targeting specific parks.
The bill was introduced after parks officials admitted in July that some agency employees had stashed away $54 million even as the agency was cutting services and threatening to close parks.
The scandal resulted in the resignation of the department’s director, the removal of other staff, and complaints from private groups that had been raising funds to keep their local parks from closing.
Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) introduced the bill as "a concrete step to make things right." The bill now goes back to the Assembly for final action.
In addition to funding parks that had been threatened with closure, AB 1478 provides $500,000 for audits and investigations of park finances, and $240,000 for the parks commission to exercise closer oversight over agency operations.
“Many of us feel betrayed by the parks scandal,” Blumenfield said. “For over a year, we were told that parks would close and Californians rallied to raise funds to keep them open. This accomplishment cannot be soiled by rogue bureaucrats who lied and concealed millions all along.’’
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: California Department of Parks and Recreation superintendent Kevin Forrester closes the access gate to Providence Mountain State Recreation Area, where vandals have gone wild since it was closed. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times.