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State parks access pass might be key to preventing their closure

The scene within the walls of Sutter's Fort State Historic Park in Sacramento, where the Mexican flag still flies. The park is slated for closure if state parks funding disappeared.

Those following the issue of funding for California's state parks will note there is bad news but some good news this week.

The bad news: The Budget Conference Committee on Monday afternoon voted to eliminate $70 million in general fund money earmarked for support of the state parks system for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

The good news: The committee also voted to adopt the State Parks Access Pass and create a dedicated funding source to keep parks open. This still needs to be passed by the Legislature, as part of a budget bill, and approved by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But it makes sense. The access pass would place a $15 surcharge on vehicle license fees for noncommercial vehicles. That won't go over well with those who do not like outdoor recreation and have no plans to enter any of California's 279 state parks, beaches and reserves.

But it's a bargain for those who frequent these vast wilderness refuges, as they'd be allowed free day-use access to state parks. More important, it would prevent 220 of these parks from closing and deteriorating to a point where it'd become extremely costly to reopen them.

With the surcharge the general fund would realize an estimated savings of about $143 million annually.

Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation, declared in a news release: "At a time when the state desperately needs to generate revenues for many other critical state services, it makes sense to keep state parks open and available for the public. The Committee recognized that closing state parks won't save money, it will cost the state dearly."

Goldstein cited a Cal State Sacramento study that found park users spend an average of $57.63 per visit and, across the state parks system, generate more than $4.2 billion in positive economic effects.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: The scene within the walls of Sutter's Fort State Historic Park in Sacramento, where the Mexican flag still flies. The park is slated for closure if state parks funding disappeared. Credit: Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times

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Comments (17)

Wow, you have to actually PAY for services? Sounds like people want them for free. Why are these people SO cheap? Sucks we live in a democracy doesn't it? Well you can always move to Russia, or better yet Mexico where there are REALLY LOW TAXES and hardly any services. GET GOING PLEASE!

Maybe you should realize, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

The California State Parks
200 miles of Pacific Coast access
Anza Borrego Desert
Historic Towns and Buildings, Bodie, Columbia, Indian State Museum, Railtown

are all worthy of keeping. Economic woes come and go. The governor should not be allowed to destroy our natural resources.


I am saddened by the comments of people such as Linda who feel that it is ok to privatize our last public and sacred, natural spaces. Who speaks for these cultural and natural spaces? We do. By having government ran parks, we have something that the people can enjoy... no matter how rich or poor. We are able to truly protect the state's resources. If they are privatized, do you HONESTLY think that would be the case, Linda? Look at the parts of the parks that are ran by concessionaires. They are tacky and completely non-interested in maintaining or restoring. It is all about profit. Is it truly all about money for you anti-tax people? Please think of the future of your children and grandchildren. Do you really want to leave them without a safe place to expore the redwoods or visit amazing tidepools. It is is so sad that so many people don't see the importance of our parks.

This is a great idea! Even people who do not use the parks benefit from them, as the parks contribute considerably to tourism and other economic activity in the state. And with free access, even more Californians would be able to make use of them. We need to preserve this irreplaceable heritage for our children, and their children...

yeah .. it's those pesky, profitable STATE PARKS that are draining what should be the richest state in the world.. not the tens of millions of non-tax paying citizens who take all the jobs, and get free schooling and medical benefits while giving nothing back!!

Save the parks. This is a great idea. I will gladly pay the extra $15.00 to use the parks for free. What a great deal. The parks are currently run with a skeleton staff and there budget does not let them maintain the historic bulidings and facilities as it is.
Our parks need to be saved for future generations of Americans, so they can be proud of California and her history.

No new taxes! Close the parks - who needs them anyway!

Participating in outdoor activities is a luxury and as it should be taxed as such. I say Increase user fees to point that no one will want to pay them.

A better plan: sell off the parks to private developers - let them build houses - the State will be happy to provide the infrastructure that goes with an increase in population density.

Consider, once the parks are closed, the cost of reopening them will be cost prohibative forcing the park(s) to be sold anyway - so why not sell now while they are in reasonable shape and can command top dollar.

TAX and SPEND - that's the American way (at least the California way)!

Why Do We Even Bother Voting In California?
News Type: Event — Tue Jun 16, 2009 8:00 PM PDT
politics, california, budget, voting, healthcare, state, retirement, reform, schwarzenegger, impeach, wilson, ballot, stealing, crooks, mccauley, parks-and-recreation, democrasy, pentions
John Crippen

The American Bald Eagle, disappearing alongside the right of the average American to have a say so.

I cannot help but wonder why, after multiple special elections, the politicians in California i.e. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pete Wilson, and Paul McCauley continue to go against the wants and the needs of the state. Even after the public has said NO, they continue to steal from the retired, disabled, and the mentally ill. I find these actions to be cowardly and self serving in nature. After loosing to the special elections, they are now attempting to rewrite the legislature and the actual constitution of California in an effort to work around the voice of the public. After observing the results of the last couple elections, It appears that people are taking more interest in the direction our state is going. I urge people not to stop at the ballots and read the writings from organizations such as AARP, CALPERS, State entities such as the BVNPT, CDCR, and many other functions of state infrastructure. The only reason to close state parks would be to buy the surrounding land and reopen the parks to make a quick buck. REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED IN CAMARILLO! We could raise the fees for state parks, we could have tax reform that helps, not hinders the sick and the elderly. We could keep giving overworked nurses and firefighters what they deserve, instead of chasing more and more people out of these much needed human services, but we cannot do it without the further involvement of the people of California.

This sounds perfect. DO IT. Parks are not a luxury.

State parks are the best things going for this state. Keep them open.

Here's a couple additional ideas:

- Add some vending machines to parks. Many are in somewhat remote areas and offering drinks, snacks and stuff like sunblock to users would be beneficial to parks and visitors

- Reduce free parking areas; yeah I use them, but if they weren't available, I'd pay too

- Increased fines for litterbugs

Please go ahead and charge us all more fees each time we pay for the registration of our vehicles, whether they be SUVs, pick up trucks, Harleys, boats, quads, SeaDoo Bombardier. RV, etc. We need to raise more fees and make sure that camps and beaches remain open by any means necessary. Who cares what American taxpayers think. We could all use a nice day at the beach or at a campsite. Double our registration fees if you have to, but keep the parks open no matter what!

Sell annual and semi annual (charge a little more than half the annual fee) access permits to people who do want to use the parks. It's worked other places that I've lived. So (1) our parks would stay open, and (2) nobody like Mister Caps Lock up there has to complain they're being charged for something they're not using.

I would have thought that a $24 BILLION SHORTFALL would have been a fairly obvious clue to the Legislature that California can no longer afford to operate luxuries such as parks. People who want the parks to stay open need to pony up the user-fees to make it happen, so dwindling tax revenues are available to fund a short list of genuine essentials -- recreational activities aren't on the list. Alternatively, I'm cool with selling them to private businesses -- with a profit motive for maintaining their investment, they'd no doubt do a better job of managing the natural resources than our government maroons.

I've been going to State Parks for over three decades.

During that time I've seen three distinct trends; One is ever increasing fees, Two is the ever decreasing use of paid staff, and Three is the increased use of volunteers. Fees are almost equal to that of a hotel room now, but without things like a shower!

So before anyone approves any more fee increases, please tell me why the current arrangement of reduced paid staff, increased volunteer labor and already hiked fees isn't adequate and why aren't our tax dollars paying for the public's use of public land?

I smell another government scam and con of the taxpayer in the works.

This is a great idea that will benefit everyone, except of course those who hate government and taxes in any form.

I would support an opt-out license fee. If you do not want to pay the fee, then you would have to pay $100 to enter a state park. You could have special "Scrooge" plates issued to you. Also, for more savings, you could opt out of paying other fees and doing without the services. Don't pay the full fee and you don't get the police or fire department to answer your 9-1-1 calls. Sounds good to me.

I'm OK with it.

What they want to surcharge and additional $15 access fee for the state parks for everyone vechicle in california? Is that what i understand?

What part do our state politician dont understand? didnt they learn from the last failed initiatives? Didnt the voters state no new taxes, increases, fees.



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