County: State Parks Crucial to Tourism Revenue

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October 24, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Eight state parks in Northern California's Mendocino County slated for closure as a cost-cutting measure for the state are the focus of a discussion on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors' Tuesday (Oct. 25) meeting agenda.

The board will consider writing a letter to the state Legislature urging lawmakers to widen the state Parks Department's criteria for identifying park closures to include "the economic effects of the proposed closure on both community businesses and the county where the park is located," The Ukiah Daily Journal reported.

The letter also urges the Legislature to "reconsider whether closing parks is an economically sound way to help balance the state budget."

"Tourism is arguably the most important driver of the Mendocino County economy," the letter states, quoting figures from a study by Dean Runyan Associates, commissioned by the California Tourism Bureau.

"In 2009, tourism pumped $297 million into the Mendocino County economy, directly employing 4,800 people," the letter states. "Mendocino County tax revenues attributable to tourism amounted to $6.7 million. An additional $12.3 million in tourist-related tax revenue went to the state.

"According to a 2008 Mendocino County Travel Research Study, 74% of our visitors visit our state parks and they consider the quality of our parks as high,' rating them a 4.6 on a scale of 5."

Addressed to the chairmen of the state Assembly's Water Parks and Wildlife Committee and Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review, the letter details the economic impacts of closing four Mendocino County parks on the state's list of 70 parks slated for closure.

Closure Impact Details

  • Closing the Hendy Woods State Park near Philo would "virtually cut off visitors from the only easily accessible old growth redwood groves of significant size, not only in Anderson Valley, but virtually in the entire country," according to the letter. The park has 94 campsites that offer visitors low-cost overnight options. Annual visitor attendance is "at least" 49,712, the letter states.
  • Russian Gulch State Park, just north of Mendocino, has 31 campsites, along with a cove that served as a landing for sailing ships and a natural blowhole formed when "pounding waves forged an inland tunnel and left a hole 100 feet across and 60 feet deep," the letter notes. The park also features the "visitor favorite" trails to waterfalls, including the fern canyon trail leading to a waterfall in the redwood forest, according to the letter, along with a recreation hall built by the Conservation Corps, which hosts weddings and special events.
  • The Westport-Union Landing State Beach, just north of Fort Bragg, houses the community's only public beach, according to the letter. It has 82 campsites, is "heavily used by RV campers," and is "often favored by retirees and families," the letter states. Annual attendance is 221,892.
  • Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area, along the South Fork Eel River north of Leggett, serves as the county's only state park along the Highway 101 corridor that offers visitor facilities, according to the letter. It features 163 campsites and has an annual visitor attendance of 7,665. "Unless Standish-Hickey is there to provide a reason to stop and spend some time, many tourists are likely to traverse the entire length of Mendocino County without enjoying our scenic beauties and without spending any money outside of our major towns," the letter says.
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