California Begins Cutbacks at 278 State Parks
Starting today (Dec. 1), officials will begin to implement a new round of major cuts to the state park system because of California's ongoing budget crisis, KTVU-TV, San Jose, reported.
The cuts will include everything from complete park closures and reduced hours to fewer campgrounds and less maintenance. Word has spread among park goers that big changes are in store.
California operates 278 state parks with an annual budget of about $300 million. Last month, when lawmakers approved a state budget, the parks system saw a $15 million budget reduction.
That's on top of $14 million in cuts the year before.
A ballot measure to increase vehicle license fees to benefit the parks system failed last month.
"800 state parks in the last 25 years have seen big cutbacks. This as we have 10 million more people using parks," noted Marin District Parks Superintendent Danita Rodriguez.
In Marin County, all six state parks will see cuts from reduced campground hours to fewer trash pickups and restroom cleanups.
Frank Quan's family has been at China Camp on the shores of the Bay since 1890, long before it was a state park. Quan said he has seen a lot over the last eight decades but he's never seen the parks in such dire financial straits.
"The rangers will be working extra hard. We used to have four rangers here. Now we have just two in the park," said Quan.
John Benus runs two Marin hiking clubs with 1,500 members. The clubs' members have been pitching in to help short-handed maintenance crews keep trails from being overrun.
John Muir, no relation to the famed naturalist, volunteers at China Camp to build vintage boats and keep history alive.
"It's tough. It's been a long slow decline over the last bunch of years," said Muir. "The parks are suffering. We'll get through it however we need to do it."
Rodriguez said there is one simple thing individuals can do if they're concerned about California state parks — visit one. He said the revenue from the fees you pay can help the parks operating.