Parks Forward: Make Calif. Parks 'Sustainable'
California officials on Monday (June 3) launched a new program to analyze and overhaul the state parks system, to be led by a volunteer commission.
Called Parks Forward, the effort is required by the California State Parks Stewardship Act, passed last year in the wake of a financial scandal that upended the leadership ranks at state parks headquarters, the Sacramento Bee reported.
The system has been under scrutiny since The Bee revealed last year that top officials at the Department of Parks and Recreation hid $20 million in "surplus" money even as they set about closing 70 parks due to budget cuts.
Among its other troubles, the department has a deferred maintenance backlog at its 280 parks that exceeds $1 billion.
That is partly because the state general fund subsidy for parks has declined over the past 20 years, and revenues from visitor fees have not filled the gap.
California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said Monday that Parks Forward aims to make the parks department "sustainable" over the next century.
"We would like to get to a point where we are not deferring maintenance and we are adequately funding the stewardship of the parks," he said.
Laird will appoint the commission members, to include park users as well as experts on conservation and finance. The only commissioner named so far is Lance Conn, a venture capitalist and former investor for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
Parks Forward will be funded by grants from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and others, under the auspices of the Resources Legacy Fund. For more information, visit: www.parksforward.com.
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