No state parks will close on July 1. Last night, the governor signed a budget bill that shifts $7 million from an off-highway-vehicle fund and $3 million from an alternative-fuel/alternative-vehicle incentive fund to the state parks to keep them open for the time being (see May 15 article).
On a call about the budget, Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird said this morning that this funding would allow time for additional contracts to be signed with various entities to take over/help run another 25 or so parks. Already contracts have been signed that will save–for this year–40 parks. There are a few others of the original 70 parks targeted that the state is still trying to figure out how to handle. Not all of the parks that will remain open will have the same level of service or the same hours open as before this funding crisis. But at least they will be open for some period.
The governor, however, line-item-vetoed from the main budget bill an additional $31 million in funds for the parks system. Most of that money would have been designated for particular uses and would not have necessarily helped keep the parks open, but might have helped with maintenance and rehabilitation. This means that the governor will blue-pencil much of what was in the resources trailer bill addressing parks when it arrives on his desk.
Additionally, it is unclear whether the agency or the governor has a plan for how to keep the parks open, and for how to find sustainable funding, over the long haul. We still aren’t seeing tremendous leadership from the governor’s office, but we intend to help with that and will be offering some suggestions to the governor that follow the line of thinking expressed in the op-ed Sierra Club executive director Mike Brune and I published in the Sacramento Bee on June 10. Stay tuned for more information.
In any case, congratulate yourselves for everything so many of you have done to keep the pressure on the governor and the legislature to find a solution for state parks. The response to our alerts has been tremendous. Watch for another request for action soon to help ensure that a sustainable solution is found.
And special kudos to Jim Metropulos, our senior advocate, for the work he’s been doing over the last two years at the Capitol to push for a funding solution.
Now go celebrate. Take a hike in a state park!
Kathryn Phillips, director, Sierra Club California