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Proposed state parks closure list is not for the faint of heart

Mono Lake, which is more than 1 million years old and features unusual tufa formations made of calcium carbonate. This morning, I glimpsed the list of California state parks earmarked for closure if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger successfully cuts funding, and I became sickened and angry.

There are 220 parks, reserves and beaches on the list. That would leave a mere 59 parks for our continued enjoyment.

Those that will close if the Legislature approves the elimination of funding are wonderful and unique. Their becoming off-limits to help the governor trim the budget deficit seems neither right (the savings don't justify such drastic action) nor fair to millions of citizens who are entitled access to treasured wilderness parcels set aside years ago for their benefit.

(The closures supposedly would be temporary, but given the enormous cost to reopen these parks after their trails are overgrown etc. might make reopening all or even some of them difficult.)

A sampling of destinations on the hit list, with brief commentary:

-- Eastern Sierra's Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve and Bodie State Historical Park: The former boasts one of the planet's most surreal landscapes and features bizarre tufa spires and a lake more than 1 million years old. The latter is a ghost town from the gold-mining era. Visitors journey to the Old West and emerge with a clearer understanding of our past.

-- Malibu Creek State Park: For years one of my favorites. Close to L.A. yet a world removed with its oak-filled valleys, rolling hills and rugged peaks. A haven for hikers, campers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and bird enthusiasts. 

-- Leo Carrillo State Park: Camp in the sycamore-shaded canyon, hike the Nicholas Flat Trail to the crest and back, then explore the rocky beach and try to envision this place being off-limits. I camped here as a kid on a school field trip, back when schools could afford or were allowed such things.  

A hummingbird probes a flower along the Nicholas Flat Trail at Leo Carrillo State Park.

-- Ano Nuevo State Reserve: Does the governor -- indirectly, by way of funding cuts -- really wish to prevent people from watching elephant seals propagate? Seriously, the raw display of nature here is the kind of stuff you see on the Nature channel.

The list goes on and on, and chances are your favorite park is mentioned. If you'd like to join the fight to stop the elimination of funding, scheduled to be complete during the next fiscal year, visit the California State Parks Foundation website and follow instructions. They're easy and, hopefully, with enough public input, this nightmare scenario will become just that: a bad dream.

-- Pete Thomas

Top photo: Mono Lake, which is more than 1 million years old and features unusual tufa formations made of calcium carbonate. Credit:  Dan Blackburn

Bottom photo: A hummingbird probes a flower along the Nicholas Flat Trail at Leo Carrillo State Park. Credit: Pete Thomas / Los Angeles Times

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Comments (80)

I agree with "R U NUTS." It's absolute lunacy to shut down our treasured parks, and the cost of vandalism, accidental and intentionally set fires, littering, lack of trail maintenance, etc. will prolong the park closures and cost a fortune to correct. And the parks that do remain open will become totally overcrowded and polluted. I'm able to survive the madness of L.A. because I have these wonderful parks to explore. There's got to be a better way. I'd gladly pay increased fees/taxes to keep the parks open.

This is ridiculous. We need open space to balance an overpopulated and overdeveloped planet, so as to thrive emotionally and physically. Life depends on life to subsist!!

I don't know, the parks have been around longer than all the new government bureaucrat offices that were created because our State government thinks we can't live without. In my house when i need to cut back i start to look at the things i can live without starting with the newest items or services i took on, then if that doesn't do it i dig deeper that puts all on the table.
Our Government thinks the people of California needs them to care for us and we can't live without them managing us.
I say cut back and lose all the new Programs and Offices that were created within the last 5 years and see where we stand then dig dig deeper if needed.
And stop providing health care to Illegals crossing the border.!!!!!!!!!!

To the person who made this post below.....Please get your facts straight. The retirement benifit for most state employees AFTER 25 YEARS SERVICE will equal only 50% of their highest years salary...not 100%. My benefit will be about $1200 per month. This is what I get for agreeing to current wages that are 30% less then you folks in the private sector are getting , as per Total Compensatation Survey Gov. commissioned in 2006 before he would settle Union then contracts. ( another great waste of tax payers money). Furthermore, as for the average state employee making $65,000.........yes this is overtime inflated wages for firefighters and peace offices who were fighting wildfires across CA. Some folks might be a bit upset if we barred these folks from getting any OT.

Let's close the parks. We need to save money so that 'public servants' can retire at 55 with pensions equal to their best (OT-inflated) past pay. LA Times readers would be well served to read the articles over the past year or two on SF Gate. They highlight the jaw dropping packages that local and state officials get

This comments section is not for the faint of heart. But I made a donation to the state parks foundation and called my two legislators to try to make amends for all the sound and the fury signifying...not much. If you care, please consider doing the same.

And re: the car tax. I don't know why there isn't more outrage about the consequences of that stunt.

I don't mind. Closed parks = fewer visitors = more quietude for me. I don't mind a locked gate, and hiking on the DL is fine with me.

First, I agree a lot with Kate but I think she forgot two important points.

You voted Arnie in 7 years ago. The first thing he did was cancel Davis' DMV registration increase (doubling) and everybody applauded. Well that fee was going to bring in $3+ Billion. Multiply that 7 and you can see how close it is the full deficit now of $20+ Billion.

You keep voting for bond measures that just increase the borrowing with a 30 year term which generally costs about another 50% to pay back. Very expensive way to budget.

So, Californians you have brought it upon yourselves. Maybe as we grow up over the next couple of years maybe tax won't just evoke emotions but stimulate thought. How about that?

We need a constitutional convention. Everyone knows what's wrong with CA, but under current circumstances cannot be fixed.

This is great. Free parking. $15 a day was a bit high if you ask me, considering the Feds manage to do it for $10 or less (National Forest). I find it amusing how I can buy a Fed pass for $90 to get me into all National Forests and National Parks, but if I want the same access to the state parks, it's $115. Something's not right if you can't run your parks more efficiently than the Feds. I, for one, pay the fee and enjoy myself, and would continue to do so. Now, I'll just hop the fence. I love that they're "closing" San Jacinto. The aerial tramway drops you off inside the park. There won't even be a fence to jump. Maybe they should just leave the parks open and cut back staff and amenities to just enough people to collect fees. I'm actually really surprised that the parks is not a money maker for the state. Oh, and if you really want to help, start an organization that maintains the trails once the rangers leave.

This list is ridiculous, I know for one that Point Lobos is a money maker. The Parks cost nothing .1% of the budget. How about saving money on services to illegal immigrants? 3 million illegals cost the State at least $12 billion dollars in services a year. It's ridiculous that no one even mentions it in regards to the budget.

Uh "Kate",

People can argue back and forth about the three-strikes law and it's usefulness, but are you suggesting monitoring sex offenders is a waste of tax dollars? That's a rather peculiar addition to your list.


" But, alas, we have a society with no sense of personal responsibility."

This is somewhat true, but I've personally seen the greatest amounts of trash left at state parks by families of illegal immigrants who show up, have a picnic, and then leave mounds of trash behind. I've seen this scores of times, so, please don't call me racist. It's a basic matter of fact that there is a huge cultural divide in terms of personal responsibility in terms of park maintenance.

Keep the parks, increase the usage fees 150%. They are booked through the summer. You can't find a place to camp now if you wanted to. I hate the idea of increased fees, what they really should do is cut pension plan, pay for union workers and cut welfare programs that don't work. Prison costs are outrageous too. As always, the hard working middle class is chopped at the knees and fringe groups take take take.

jeff verkouille,

I hear (and like) what you're saying. The only thing I worry about is without rangers, well, you're going to get a lot more fire in the fire season... and fires cost money to put out.


I think the only thing good that is going to come out of this budget crisis and inevitable decline in California's economy and standard of living will be that we will finally have to face the hard choices and make the best PRAGMATIC choice.

I live outside of California at the moment. I miss California dearly, but one thing I DO NOT miss about California is how completely lacking common sense and pragmatism the political culture there is.

I'm all for idealism and making the world a better place, but idealism without common sense and pragmatism is FAR worse than cynicism. It creates cultural disaster.

It seems to me that if the fringe liberal elements (I'm talking FAR left here) all got together to organize a statewide "March Against Tragedy" that two or three million would show up enthusiastically for it.

The point being, tragedy and suffering will always be there. Ending tragedy and suffering is a foolhardy venture.

So when people say, "Why can't illegal immigrants all receive health care and free education?" I don't doubt the validity of their intentions, but I do doubt their intelligence and common sense.

We can't save the world nor should we try. All we can hope for is a better society built on optimism, common sense, and a dedicated commitment to pragmatism over shallow idealism.

Wow. If this happened, it would really suck... badly.


I like your energy and your sanity. We need more people in the world like you.

Maybe, just maybe, if the public respected our parks, cleaned up after themselves, took care of the flora and fauna, and could generally be trusted to use a public space without an army of state workers to repair the damage they do, this wouldn't be necessary. But, alas, we have a society with no sense of personal responsibility.

There are MANY revenue enhancing ideas out there that the Gov and the legislature COULD be doing instead of punishing Californians for not going along with their most recent special election scheme. Priorities to KEEP include programs for the poor, elderly and disabled, healthcare for children, and obviously education. Parks are one of the main attractions and should be next.

"NO" on the 5 propositions meant:
Californians are SICK of special elections and voting for complex initiatives that are reduced to slogans and poorly written summaries that OBSCURE the serious flaws many of them have.
Californians are DONE with state legislators who get elected by the grassroots, then go to Sacramento and sell their votes to the lobbyists representing corporations. Where did the oil/gas/mineral severance tax THAT ALL OTHER PRODUCING STATES go? Why don't we have one like TX and AK (Bush and Palin country).

With 12% of possible voters bothering to vote, NO ONE can really say what any of it meant other than that MOST Calfornians DON'T WANT this election every month squirrel cage.

If you listen the L.A. times they will tell we are not the highest taxed state. then again the L.A. times would have you believe the democrats, state employee unions, and the state workers are our friends and are under paid.

Anything that will cut state employees, cripple the unions, and upset the tax and spend liberal I am all for it.

I'm tired of paying more in taxes then the average worker grosses in this state.

Someone made this point before, and I'll raise it again.

According to the State Parks Foundation, the General fund gets $2.35 for every $1.00 spent on Parks.

By cutting the ~$850 million that the parks consume, the Governor comes out $1.15 billion worse off than by not cutting at all (i.e. he saves $850 billion and loses $2 billion) (http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/StateAgencyBudgets/3000/3790/department.html)

That's stupid. We need all the revenue we can get.

I'd also point out that Gov. Schwarznegger tried the same thing last year (http://www.calparks.org/act-now/2008-budget-proposal.html). It's a standard ploy by Governors, anytime they want to cut something. Parks get cut first.

I'm sick of it. Our State Park system has already been slashed to the bone, and somehow, it keeps producing money for the Government. Let's keep it going.

FACT: The General Fund budget that state parks receive accounts for less than 1/10 of one percent of the entire state budget.

FACT: Last year alone, there were over 80 million visitors to state parks – and all indications are that this year was going to be even higher.

FACT: For every dollar that funds the parks, $2.35 is returned to the state's General Fund through economic activities in the communities surrounding the parks.

That means eliminating all funding for state parks could actually result in the state losing over $350 million dollars in revenue.

No Orange County parks are to be closed? WTF? They'll close Malibu Lagoon and Carlsbad State Beach, but not Bolsa Chica, Huntington Beach, Corona Del Mar, Crystal Cove, or San Clemente?

Just in case anyone thinks this isn't politically motivated, there's your proof.

I can not believe just how much my home state is going further in the toilet.I had to stop surfing because the water quality SUCKS.I ride motorcycles and atv's and the ability to ride them was permanetly curtailed i saw the writing on the wall.The recent influx of immigrants with NO intention of becoming American citizens will cause further social decline and kill the states trauma based hospitals.I fail to see how closing one of so cals best beach parks will fix anything.My entire family moved from so cal for there own reasons however we all only have the memories left from our life spent in what was then paradise.STAY CLASSY SO CAL (NOT)

The CA State Park budget is 1/10 of 1% of the CA Budget in it's entirety. For every public dollar that is spent at a State Park 2.50 goes back into the State general fund in the form of tax revenue; from surrounding businesses, tourist expenditures, etc. Re-opening the parks after they are destroyed and re-training the specialist employees that Parks employ (Rangers & Lifeguards) will also be a huge expense to the people of CA. This is just a flat out bad idea that will cost the State more money in the long run.



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