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Statement by Elizabeth Goldstein, President, CSPF

Governor Doesn't Want To Protect State Parks

October 12, 2009: Governor Schwarzenegger just vetoed two landmark state park protection bills—Senate Bill 679 by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and Senate Bill 372 by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego). These bills would have protected California's state park system against development proposals that threaten state parks, and ensure that efforts to use state parks for non-park purposes result in no net loss of park lands for Californians. The vetoes of SB 679 and SB 372 come on the heels of $14.2 million in budget cuts to the state parks. These budget cuts threaten to partially close parks and to significantly reduce maintenance throughout the system.

In this singular moment, the Governor had an opportunity to give all Californians a small glimmer of hope for state parks. It simply didn't happen. In his veto message, the Governor has confirmed Californians worst fears that our state parks are at great risk. In his veto message on SB 679, he states:

Whether it is roads, water and energy infrastructure, or areas necessary for the installation of renewable energy facilities, maintaining the flexibility of the current process is absolutely necessary as the state continues to strive to meet its infrastructure needs for a growing population.

In 2007, an informal survey of state parks found 122 such development threats in 73 state parks. Every single one of these proposals, if built, would benefit private developers, utilities, or other institutions and not state parks. Parkland is not set aside as a land bank for development projects, no matter how worthy.

We wish to remind the Governor that the park system has been largely paid for with funds that the public has specifically dedicated for that purpose. The cavalier attitude with which the Governor treats this investment is frankly shocking. When Californians of every walk of life voted to put their hard earned income into bonds to support capital improvements and the expansion of their state parks system they thought that policy leaders, elected and appointed, would protect that investment in perpetuity. Instead, that system is threatened by just the kind of projects that the Governor refers to in his statement.  

The Governor had an unprecedented opportunity to prevent our state park system from becoming a path of least resistance for development and other non-park uses. Instead he has encouraged those who would seek these parks for potential development schemes. This is a chilling message in the context of the state parks’ budget cuts that the Governor signed into law just a little over two months ago.

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CSPF Statement on the Governor's "plan"

September 25, 2009: The Governor's office released a statement today on his "plan" to avoid the full closure of state parks.  The press statement is below. This is not an actual restoration of funding for state parks – in fact, it is not at all a restoration of funding. The way he proposes to get $14M in savings without fully closing parks is to partially or seasonally close some parks (which was already part of the plan to generate savings), eliminate major equipment purchases this year (also already on the table), reduce spending on seasonal staff (already on the table), reduce hours of operation at most state parks, and reduce ongoing maintenance. 

We all want to see our state parks open, and it’s been the efforts of advocates that have kept the Governor’s feet to the fire since late May. But CSPF isn’t fully celebrating this news yet. While the Governor has found a clever way to get political cover on this issue, it’s not clear that this plan won’t actually leave Californians with just as limited access to their state parks as if they had been fully closed. The “found money” here is from having less lifeguards on state beaches, not maintaining restrooms, not staffing parks for health and safety standards, etc. And you’ll see at the end of the release, a $22M cut in next year’s budget is still on the horizon. 

From the Governor's Press Release:
Proposal for alternative solution to closures

To avoid full and complete park closures while achieving the budgeted savings, the Administration can take the following actions:

  • In the current fiscal year, Parks can achieve one-time budget savings in the following manner:
    • Maintenance and Equipment: Reduce ongoing maintenance for the remainder of 2009-10 and eliminate all major equipment purchases, such as vehicle replacements. (Savings estimated at $12.1 million)
    • Service Reductions: Reducing hours and/or days of operation at most State Park units, reducing expenditures on seasonal staff, reducing staffing and operations at Headquarters (Savings estimated at $2.1 million). Examples of service reductions include; (1) some facilities will close weekdays and be open on weekends and holidays, (2) portions of a unit may be closed, such as the back loop of a campground, (3) for a park with multiple campgrounds, one whole campground or day use facility may be closed while the rest of the park remains open, and (4) parks that already close due to seasonal conditions may see a longer closure. Service reductions will be planned to minimize disruptions to visitors, achieve cost savings and maintain park fee revenues.
  • To achieve the $22.2 million of ongoing future General Fund savings that was included in the 2009 Budget Act, the Administration can explore various solutions for inclusion in the January 10 budget to generate ongoing budget savings while minimizing full and complete park closures.

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