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Groups to challenge legality of closing 100 California state parks

July 31, 2009 |  6:13 pm

Bodiesmall Minority and low-income communities would suffer first and worst from a plan to cut the state budget by closing as many as 100 California state parks and beaches, according to a group of nonprofit health organizations and concerned citizens expected to file an administrative complaint with the U.S. Justice Department on Monday.

State officials hope to finalize a list of park closures by Labor Day. But the group led by the City Project, Concerned Citizens of South Los Angeles, Coastwalk California, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy contends that closing a third of the state's parks would violate laws prohibiting discriminatory impacts on recipients of federal and state funds.

“This issue must be resolved as soon as possible,” said Zoe Rawson, staff attorney for the City Project. “Access to open space is critical to the well-being and health of people who reside in densely populated urban environments such as Los Angeles."

“The values at stake are great," she said, "and include social cohesion, and the psychological and physical health of thousands of people who can’t afford to go to a gym."

The complaint will be submitted against California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California state legislature and the California Resources Agency, the group said.

"With the complaint we are seeking ultimately to prevent or mitigate state park closures," she said. "If we can't resolve this issue through the complaint process, the next step we will be considering is a lawsuit."

-- Louis Sahagun

Photo: Bodie State Park. Credit: Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times