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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)

No one here has mentioned the third option: leave the parks open, un-staffed, and un-maintained. They are public land after all. Sure they will become overgrown and litter-strewn, but they will become overgrown if they are closed anyway and the litter can be removed once there is funding for it. I don't see any reason to close the parks when they can be left open for free.

Here's a plan for keeping the parks open:

Reduce the $125 yearly parking fee to to $62.50.
If 1,000,000 people buy one by July 1, the parks stay open with that "prepaid" funding.

Park users (such as me) would put our money where our mouths are. I would buy one even if I didn't get my full $62.50 worth.

It's a stop-gap, one-time solution, but I think it's viable.

(BTW: To be fair: Recent purchasers of the $125 pass would be allowed to extend their pass for a year at the $62.50 rate.)

One bad fire started by an arsonist free to roam unhindered because of a lack of security in parks without rangers could wipe out every single penny of "savings" gained by closing the parks.

And if a death occurs because of such a fire, will the governator and the state be liable?

This is silly. Just raise the park fees to cover the cost of running them. Only shut down the ones that are so under used that fees wouldn't cover the cost. In fact all the fees on all government services should be raised so that the people actually using them would pay for them. I would rather pay more to enter a park than not have the park available at all. I think Californians have a get something for nothing mentality that is changing this state into Mississippi on the Pacific.

How do you close a state park anyways? I'm from Half Moon Bay, where fire roads and hiking trails weave around the mountains on the Peninsula in and out of a series of state parks. Presumably they won't be paying anyone to patrol these trails, so people will still be entering the state parks. Sounds more like they'll be closing the parking lots. There are just going to be a bunch of hidden weed farms in the parks now. More than there already are anyways.

The state parks are what brings millions of people to California each year. It is where families bond, enjoy life, get exercise. It is history to pass on from generation to generation. I found this link on line and you might be interested too. It is a way to save our state parks and thought it might be helpful to you also.

"our tax rates are the highest in the nation.

Posted by: David on the Westside "

NO THEY ARE NOT!! A studdy just came out comparing the total state tax of all states.

California is around 18th or 20th.

All this 'Oh woe is us! We pay more than anyone else in the US' is self-pitying garbage. It is NOT true and the only purpose in making such assertions is to be able to whine without accepting the responsibility for the mess created by the voters and their 'initatives."

It was the VOTERS who

(1) Passed term limits so they end up with inexperienced and unknowledgable legislators. Real bright guys - fire everyone in your company after they are they 2, 4 or 6 years and put the new hires in charge of the business. Sheer stupidity!

(2) Passed the provision mandating a certain percentage of the state income go to the schools - no matter what.

(3) Passed the provision mandating a certain percentage of the state income go to pay for after-school extracurricular activities (yeah, now there is a real igh priority in the scheme of things - cheerleading and basketball.)

(4) Passed the provision with the 3-strikes and lifetime sentences. Congratulations California, you are now #1 in the number of people in prison per capita. (Meaning for every 100 people in a population of a state, CAlocks up more than anyother state.)

(5) Demanded and/or passed all kinds of legislation such as the sex offendor monitoring,

And passed all these things and didn't bother to figure out how much they would cost or where the money would come from. Real responsiblity attitude in CA - "We want this, we want that, we want smply everything - and we won't pay a penny more for anything." The we have to have a skatepark; a beach for children and one for adults and one for nudists; counseling for everyone for this that and the 'I stubbed my toe' problem of the day; free health care for non-residents; and the list is endless. You want them - you don't want to pay for them.

And CA got by since Proposition 13 was passed by (a) borrowing and (b) riding the credit bubble through income taxes.

Want to protect seniors on a limited income from soraing property taxes? Good idea BUT do it by giving them a huge tax credit as a percentage of their tax bill and restrict it to those who are (1) over 65 or (2) considered permanently disabled by Soc Sec.

In the meantime, quit whining and get rid of Proposition 13 and raise your own taxes. It is pay-to-play time.

I'm a surfer and have enjoyed skating and thrive outdoors.
When a business is going bankrupt you have to do everything in it's power to stay alive including closing the parks. We can skate on curbs and find storm drains like when I was a kid.
How about getting corporate sponsors to fund the parks? That's the republican way, now they get to step up.

Why don't we start a list of other services we'd rather do without? I'll start: The CHP. Other than writing tickets and measuring skid marks, what the hell good are they?

If they close the main toll entrance and cut funding then that means there will likely be little or no enforcement there which means that I will still find a way in to enjoy these places but a lot of the crowds will be gone...sounds like a win win to me.

Hey "David on the West Side"

I'll tell you what's different;

1)No sustainable industry because of regulation. In the 50's and 60's California was known as Detroit West...and it wasn;t because of crime.

2)Legacy costs for governement jobs that eclipse anything seen in the private sector.

3)Exponential increase in government size outpaced population growth.

4) Ready for this one...Illegal immigrants drying the service coffers themselves and with their anchor babies; sidebar, our schools have been destroyed because of this.

ANd that, David from the West Side is what's different. Ta-Da!


Honstly, I don't see the problem; some of the parks, like Bodie, will requiere a longer bike/hike from locked access gates, but most, like Ano Nuevo, are readily accessible from public roads like route 1.

Instead of complaining, go hike in a "closed" park. Exactly who is going to prevent you? The laid off rangers? Now don't get me wrong...as an ex-NPS law enforcement ranger I would never, never, advocate breaking the law. That said, these are our parks, and we should be able to stroll our lands. Just leave only footprints and take only photos. And, if you can, pick up a little extra trash; it never hurts.

Civic disobedience rarely gets more enjoyable than hiking.

I would rather layoff the governor, the legislature and the courts before shutting down the state parks. The parks cost so little, but they benefit everyone, rich & poor. They make our state what it is. The parks will be trespassed on, littered, vandalized, overgrown and fires will be lit by accident or arsonists if they aren't maintained. Keeping them open will be cheaper than restoring them in the future.

I will be sorry to see the parks shut down, but since our elected officials refuse to prioritize -- a job that most of us who are not of unlimited means do every day -- they'll be cut along with everything else. The money tree ain't producin' like it used to, so get used to The New Frugality!

It's not the amount of taxes that we are paying. It is the cost of government and waste that has become more than we can afford. We get so little for what we pay. The money we pay goes to paying government employees salaries far higher than in the public sector. Look how many union employees are looking at 6 figure retirements Are you going to get a $100,000+ pension in retirement?

We've got bus drives in Los Angles making over 80k for what basically only requires a high school education. All those tax increases are always "for the children" but I don't buy it, the $$ rarely makes it to the children. It goes to pad government employees salaries and pensions and then whats left in a lot of cases goes to wasteful spending.

Public service used to be a noble profession that in many cases meant some sacrifice. Now people look to government jobs as a way to make far more than they could in the public sector.

I just visited Bodie State Park and Mono Lake this weekend. They are both treasures.

Regarding camping areas, especially the coastal sites in central and southern California, the experience is routinely ruined by folks who party or play loud music into the night. There isn't enough staff now to enforce basic camping rules. If any park cannot be managed safely, then it should close until conditions improve.

Marselian says,
"This is the direct result of governing by proposition. Prop 13 started this mess, and the attempt to fix the current deficit by proposition will lead to the end of the California we know."

These guys are all over the message boards and they all have the same message. Prop 13 was voted in by the voters exactly for the same reason these last five were voted down; the state legislature proposed mammoth increases in taxes that were perpetual. Don't buy the line. They're trying to create a mantra and these shills need to be exposed whenever they post..

It only takes 50% + 1 of the people to pass a measure which increases spending obligations, yet 66.67% are required to *pay* for that spending by increasing taxes. Given that math, there is no possible way for the state's budget to remain in balance.

One or the other side of this equation has to change.

With the current economical situation it doesn't make sense to close our state parks which may offer the only summer vacation opportunity for CA residents. Aren't we missing the potential revenue increases from tourist dollars? Why not raise the park use fees just a bit so that everyone can still enjoy and support our parks? Promotion not closures of these under used treasures!

The State Parks use less than 1/10th of 1% of the budget, yet return $2.35 for every dollar spent in revenues from surrounding communities whose economies are boosted by (or based on) proximity to the parks. This is an extremely short-sighted proposal.

I simply don't understand how places like Leo Carrillo and Malibu Creek state parks are not self sustaining. Both are large parks with a relatively high volume of visitors. Between camping and parking fees, these places should be able to fund their own operations. Moreover, why aren't there concessions or even vending machines at these parks?

I think that the unfortunate answer is that by taking away something that is very dear to a great many people, the State increases its leverage in future tax increase measures. Shame on you State legislatures!

A gigantic budget deficit is not for the faint of heart either. The governor deserves our encouragement and support in making difficult decisions in the most trying of circumstances. He doesn't like this any better than we do. Will Rogers State Park is just a few minutes from his own house.

The voters have been heard: shut everything down. They are simply not willing to pay for the level of government services that we now enjoy. We may disagree, but majority rules.

Instead of being upset that 220 are closing, I am surprised that 59 parks are still open. They better be making money.

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.



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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.