L.A.-area state parks could be shut down under new budget
At least five state parks in the Los Angeles area, including Pio Pico State Historic Park in Whittier and Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino, are under consideration for closure as part of an effort to offset budget reductions, officials say.
Located about 45 miles apart, Pio Pico and Los Encinos are regarded as “sister parks” because each features 19th century adobe structures surrounded by more than five acres of manicured lawns, vineyards and shady sycamore, oak and ash trees.
They also provide thousands of visitors each year — many of them schoolchildren — with an opportunity to learn about the history and culture of California during the times of such historic figures as Pio de Jesus Pico IV, the last governor of “Mexican” California.
“I don’t think the gravity of this situation has sunken in yet with a lot of people,” Sean Woods, superintendent of the Los Angeles sector of the state parks system, said Wednesday. “But the day of reckoning has arrived.”
State officials have said they plan to close 50 to 100 of the 279 state parks, with the list expected to be made public by Labor Day. The state has never before shut down a state park, officials said.
Other state park sites targeted for closure in the Los Angeles area include the 40-acre Rio de Los Angeles State Park in Los Angeles, Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park in Chatsworth and Point Dume State Beach in Malibu.
Also facing shutdown is the 1,900-acre La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, in Lompoc, which was the 11th of 21 Franciscan missions in California. No church services are held at the site.
Woods said supporters of these and other state parks were racing to forge partnerships with nonprofits, municipalities, county governments and corporations willing to share resources needed to “make sure the grass is mowed, trees are watered and graffiti is held at bay” in event of closure.
“The sad thing about all this is that it is not clear how much cities and counties can help because they are also being hit by the financial crisis,” said Caroline Schoff, president of the California League of Park Assns. “So we’re also looking at alternative scenarios such as organizing volunteer 'park watch' groups to increase vigilance.”
In the meantime, day-use and camping fees at state parks will more than double next week to generate revenues needed to keep open as many state park facilities as possible, California Department of Parks and Recreation officials said.
Beginning Monday, day-use fees will increase by $2 to $5, and camping fees will increase by $10 to $21 a night, officials said. Camping reservations made prior to that day will be honored at the lower price.
The increases were not expected to raise revenues to a level of self-sustainment for the state park system.
View California parks facing possible closures in a larger map
-- Louis Sahagun in Encino
Photos, from top: Pio Pico State Historic Park in Whittier (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times), Point Dume State Beach in Malibu (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times), Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times), La Purisima Mission State Historic Park in Lompoc (La Purisima Mission).