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Initiative Designed to Save California’s State Parks

November 4, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Tired of constant threats to close California’s state parks, a coalition of environmental and nonprofit groups proposed a ballot initiative Tuesday (Nov. 3) that would charge motorists an additional $18 to register their vehicles in exchange for free admission to the state parks.

The registration fee would apply to all California vehicles, including motorcycles and recreational vehicles. Larger commercial vehicles, mobile homes and permanent trailers would be exempt, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In exchange, Californians would no longer pay day-use or admission fees at any state park. Park visitors now pay up to $125 for an annual pass and from $10 to $15 a day at most parks. Out-of-state vehicles would pay the full entrance fee.

The idea is to establish a State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund that could be spent only on state parks operations and urban rivers, wildlife, open space and ocean conservation programs.

Proponents of the initiative say it would provide enough money to prevent parks from being shuttered.

As it is, campgrounds, picnic areas, parking lots, restrooms, roadways and buildings at California’s 278 parks are being closed because of a $14.2 million cut in the state’s park department budget this fiscal year.

The cuts were part of a budget deal Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed in July to erase a $24 billion budget gap. The plan would keep all the parks at least partially open through June 30, but $22.2 million was also cut out of the 2010-2011 parks budget, meaning the closures will be more extensive unless a pot of money materializes.

Almost 60 parks in all will be shut down part time or have their hours of operations severely reduced, park officials said.

The initiative, which was filed Tuesday with the state attorney general, will not qualify for next November’s ballot until 433,971 signatures are collected.

The committee that wrote the initiative, Californians for State Parks and Wildlife Conservation, plans to evaluate the measure’s chance of success over the next couple of months before deciding whether to place it on the ballot.

“This parks measure would create a dedicated funding source to prevent park closures, eliminate a backlog oures, eliminate a backlog of more than a billion dollars in repairs, and properly maintain parks and other natural resources for our children and grandchildren to enjoy,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation, which is part of the coalition.

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