California State Parks Gutted by Budget Crisis
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decreed last month that no state parks would be shuttered, but the $14.2 million he cut out of the state parks budget means many of the 278 parks in California will be open only on weekends and almost all will have to endure partial closures. Most of the closures begin next week, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The list prepared by park superintendents throughout California indicates that park visitors should also be advised not to expect many lifeguards or interpretive programs or parking spots or, for that matter, public restrooms, even in a pinch.
"The headlines last month were: 'The Governor Saves State Parks.' Uh, wait a minute. There is still a $14.2 million hit to the state budget," said Jerry Emory, spokesman for the California State Parks Foundation. "In fact, these service cuts might impact more parks systemwide. Before, we were looking at a list of 100 parks, including partial, full and seasonal closures. Now the plan is just to do that across the entire system."
There will be major cutbacks in the San Francisco Bay Area, including campground, picnic and parking lot closures on Mount Tamalpais, Angel Island, Mount Diablo, Samuel P. Taylor, Tomales Bay and China Camp state parks. Facilities at Olompali State Historic Park, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area and the Benicia Capital State Historic Park will be closed.
The cuts were part of a deal Schwarzenegger signed in July to erase a $24 billion budget gap. The deal also chopped $22.2 million out of the 2010-11 parks budget.
The governor's plan is to keep the parks open through June 30, 2010, by closing campgrounds and facilities on weekdays, eliminating unfilled seasonal and administrative positions, and cutting back on maintenance and things like restroom cleaning.
Some $12.1 million will be saved this year by eliminating all major equipment purchases, including vehicle replacements.
Roy Stearns, the state parks spokesman, said $2.1 million will be saved by cutting seasonal and operations staffing and by not filling 350 vacant positions.
"What you see here are service reductions, like shutting down electricity, operating expenses, water, bathrooms, reducing the number of seasonal lifeguards, not picking up trash as often," Stearns said. "We're hoping to not lay anybody off, but to instead transfer people around where they are needed."
Mount Tamalpais is among the Bay Area locations most affected. The upper part of the mountain from Pantoll to East Peak and the Bootjack parking lot will be closed on weekdays, except some holidays, between Nov. 1 and June 30, 2010. The Alice Eastwood Group Camp will be closed from Nov. 1 to March 25, and the Frank Valley Horse Camp will be closed from Nov. 1 until June 30.
Some restroom facilities on Angel Island will be closed during the week and only a limited number of interpretive programs will be provided on the island. The Madrone Group Camp and Irving Group Picnic areas in Samuel P. Taylor park will be closed until March 25.
The Shell Beach and Millerton Point parking lots in Tomales Bay will be closed during the week, and all restroom facilities will be indefinitely shuttered.
The Back Ranch Meadows campground at China Campat China Camp will be open only on weekends and holidays through March 25, and the Weber and Buckeye Point recreation areas and the lower China Camp Village parking lot will be closed on weekdays through June 30.
Olompali State Historic Park will be closed Monday through Friday through June 30 as will six picnic areas at Mount Diablo State Park. The Live Oak campground, one of the two camping spots on the mountain, will be shut down until the end of June.
The main parking lot at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area will be closed on Thursdays and Fridays, and the Benicia Capital State Historic Park will be closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported these area changes:
- Hearst Castle: Tours will stay on the current schedule, but building and landscape maintenance, as well as conservation, will be reduced.
- San Simeon Creek Campground: The Upper Washburn camping area will be closed during weekdays, as will one loop in the lower campground; those campsites will reopen during weekends and holidays.
- Morro Bay State Park: Open to campers with reservations until the end of December, but the number of campsites with reservation availability will be trimmed in half to reduce maintenance. Some campsites could be closed if demand is low.
- Morro Strand State Beach: Campsites will have periodic closures depending on demand. A damaged restroom at 24th Street will not be repaired this year.
- Montaña de Oro State Park: Half the sites will be closed at the Islay Creek camping area.