Local Senator Fights To Keep Your State Parks Open | News
State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and State Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) unveiled a budget proposal to keep open up to 50 state parks slated for closure this year, and reverse the closure of still more in 2013, while providing a stable and long-term funding solution. As many as 70 state parks had been slated for closure beginning July 1, 2012.
The essence of the ‘Sustainable Parks Proposal’ is:
• Growing the non-profit support and engagement spearheaded by the California State Parks Foundation and their community partners;
• Finding “new ways of working” in the parks, including allowing parks to become more entrepreneurial and allowing more personnel flexibility;
• Accessing additional, existing funding sources that may be appropriately used for park purposes, including using up to $10 million of existing funds collected from vehicle registration fees for park road and trail maintenance and other uses.
The ‘Sustainable Parks Proposal’ will be up in Senate Budget Subcommittee #2 on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation, which is chaired by Simitian, on Wednesday at 2:30 in room 4203 in the State Capitol.
“It’s unacceptable to imagine putting up the ‘closed’ sign on these precious public resources,” said Simitian. “It’s also penny-wise and pound foolish. Closed parks are easy prey for crime, fire and vandalism. If we work together creatively to keep these parks open, we can prevent the kind of problems that will end up costing California far more in the long run.”
“This plan is worthy of the legacy that has been left in our trust,” said Evans. “I am thankful for Senator Simitian’s dedication to a solution-oriented and sustainable long term funding plan to keep parks open and thriving. Utilizing existing funds, providing flexibility and giving needed assistance to our nonprofit partners will keep parks in the public trust for generations to come. I believe this is a solid proposal that will set the financial foundation for saving our parks. In the short term, we will be able to keep most of our parks open this year, and in the long run, it will help make our park system stronger and more creative. “
Simitian noted as well that state parks “are an extraordinary economic asset for California. They pump tourism and hospitality dollars into the economy, and create jobs in the process.”
The proposal also would give Californians voluntary opportunities to support the parks. Under the proposal, Californians could purchase a specialty parks license plate for a fee and give a voluntary donation at the time of their vehicle renewal. In addition, the proposal would allow the Department of Parks and Recreation to access $10 million annually in long-term loans to fix the water and septic system problems that plague many aging park facilities.
In May of last year, it was estimated that 70 parks would close due to budget cuts. Since then, nonprofit organizations and the public, as well as local and federal agencies, have stepped up efforts to find ways to fund the parks, and the number of parks slated to shut dropped to 54 last month. To help encourage these efforts, the proposal would also include extending liability coverage to local and nonprofit agencies that work in partnership to manage the parks.
“The effort that the California Parks Foundation and other nonprofit organizations have put forward to keep parks open has been nothing short of heroic,” said Simitian. “Their hard work and innovation are the good news in these tough budget times. We want to continue to encourage these creative partnerships. The state parks belong to all of us, and we’re all going to have to work together to keep them going.”
A full copy of the eight-point ‘Sustainable Parks Proposal,’ may be found at http://www.senatorsimitian.com
SOURCE: JOE SIMITIAN