California State Parks announced a plan Friday to close up to 70 of its 278 parks due to budget cuts. The parks are slated to close in July 2012, at the start of the fiscal year.
No East Bay parks are on the list, including .
However, the 70 on the list include a number of popular Northern California parks within easy driving distance, including Jack London State Park in Sonoma County, Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Marin County, Henry W. Coe State Parknear Morgan Hill; Castle Rock and Twin Lakes State Beach in Santa Cruz County; Portola Redwoods in San Mateo County; Moss Landing State Beach and Limekiln State Park in Big Sur.
Popular, oft-visited parks such as Hearst Castle, Big Basin, parks around Lake Tahoe and popular Southern California beaches will remain open.
The closures are necessary to achieve an $11-million reduction in the next fiscal year 2011/12, and $22 million in the following fiscal year 2012/13, California State Parks spokesperson Roy Stearns said in a news release.
These cuts were mandated by Assembly Bill 95, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in March.
The California State Parks Foundation strongly opposes the closures.
"Californians across the state have now heard the proverbial shoe drop for our state parks system,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of CSPF. “Closing these parks is going in the wrong direction.”
Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, introduced Assembly Bill 64 to encourage the Department of Parks and Recreation to actively seek to negotiate operating agreements with local governments. The bill was killed on the Assembly floor May 2.
Those who spoke in opposition to the bill stated they will only support "comprehensive" budget solutions that include $11 billion in DMV, sales tax and personal income tax increases for the next five years, Jeffries’ office wrote.
"It is very disappointing when a bill that could protect some of our state parks from closure at no additional expense for the state is killed to make a misguided partisan political point," Assemblyman Jeffries said in a May 3 news release. "This bill could have saved the state money and preserved park access, but the ruling majority decided to hold parks hostage for partisan gain."
Reached by phone Friday, Jeffries said the State Capitol is sending a confusing message.
"The governor is announcing the closure of State Parks, but saying we need to find more ways to work with local governments. And then you have my bill which promotes the exact same thing. It is a real challenging time to figure out...the closure list is going to wake everybody up," Jeffries said.
Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, said they regret closing any parks.
“But with the proposed budget reductions over the next two years, we can no longer afford to operate all parks within the system,” Coleman said in a news release.
“These cuts are unfortunate, but the state’s current budget crisis demands that tough decisions be made,” said Resources Secretary John Laird. “Hopefully, Republicans in the legislature will agree to allow California voters to decide whether we extend currently existing taxes or make deeper cuts to our parks.”
When reached by phone Friday, Stearns said the department will avoid any layoffs as a result of the parks closures.
"We have about 500 vacancies in the system. We hope to move those employees to positions in other parks that are still operating," Stearns said.
Stearns said it is about a 2,300-position system, but they have been operating at 500 less than were employed by State Parks in 1979.
"We've also get about 10 million more visitors per year with about 500,000 more acres," he added.
The land will go into caretaker status, according to Stearns.
"We won't sell it or dispose of it in any way." He said park rangers and maintenance people will check on the properites periodically.
How the Parks Were Chosen
State Parks had three primary goals for developing the closure methodology:
(1) protect the most significant natural and cultural resources, (2) maintain public access and revenue generation to the greatest extent possible and (3) protect closed parks so that they remain attractive and usable for potential partners. The methodology was included in the budget bill approved by the Legislature and the governor in March.
Despite the large number of parks identified for closure, at least 92 percent of today’s attendance will be retained, 94 percent of existing revenues will be preserved, and 208 parks will remain open, according to California State Parks.
“State Parks believes the methodology developed preserves and protects parks critical to the mission, which provide for the diversity of experiences wanted by visitors across the state,” Stearns said.
“For instance, State Parks has a variety of state historic parks, state beaches, state recreation areas, state nature reserves and state parks and most of the parks in all categories will remain open to serve the diverse preferences of park visitors,” Stearns continued.
“With this announcement, we can begin to seek additional partnership agreements to keep open as many parks as possible,” added Coleman. “We already have 32 operating agreements with our partners – cities, counties and non-profits – to operate state parks, and will be working statewide to expand that successful template.”
Here is a list of all the parks closing statewide:
Marsh State Historic Park
Annadel State Park
Antelope Valley Indian Museum
Austin Creek State Recreation Area
Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park
Benbow Lake State Recreation Area
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park
Benicia State Recreation Area
Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
Brannan Island State Recreation Area
California Mining & Mineral Museum
Candlestick Point State Recreation Area
Castle Crags State Park
Castle Rock State Park
China Camp State Park
Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
Fort Humboldt State Historic Park
Fort Tejon State Historic Park
Garrapata State Park
George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area
Governor's Mansion State Historic Park
Gray Whale Cove State Beach
Greenwood State Beach
Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park
Hendy Woods State Park
Henry W. Coe State Park
Jack London State Historic Park
Jug Handle State Nature Reserve
Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park
Limekiln State Park
Los Encinos State Historic Park
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
Manchester State Park
McConnell State Recreation Area
McGrath State Beach
Mono Lake Tufa State Nature Reserve
Morro Strand State Beach
Moss Landing State Beach
Olompali State Historic Park
Palomar Mountain State Park
Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park
Picacho State Recreation Area
Pio Pico State Historic Park
Plumas-Eureka State Park
Point Cabrillo Light Station
Portola Redwoods State Park
Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
Russian Gulch State Park
Saddleback Butte State Park
Salton Sea State Recreation Area
Samuel P. Taylor State Park
San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park
Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park
Shasta State Historic Park
South Yuba River State Historic Park
Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
SP Tomales Bay State Park
Tule Elk State Nature Reserve
Turlock Lake State Recretion Area
Twin Lakes State Beach
Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park
Westport-Union Landing State Beach
William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park
Woodson Bridge SRA Zmudowski State Beach