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

June 1, 2009 | 10:07 am

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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