Calif.'s 'Parks Forward' Begins Idea Gathering
California's state parks have an international reputation and widely acknowledged value as a spiritual and financial asset, but park budgets have been cut so much by Sacramento politicians, including successive governors, that a quarter nearly went extinct in 2012.
But during the next year, the state is convening a kind of constitutional convention for how the state's beloved parks should be run going forward, taking a tip-to-toe look at everything from revenues to drawing a more diverse group of parkgoers, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.
On Monday (Sept. 9), the first of 10 statewide workshops to solicit new ideas from the public came to Santa Cruz, and state officials got earfuls.
"The idea is not to create a plan that goes in a binder and goes on a shelf," said Melissa Johnson, deputy executive director of the Parks Forward Initiative. "The idea is to come up with a plan that will actually be implemented."
While the pros and cons of off-leash dogs threatened to hijack the meeting — no fewer than 10 spoke about what had been a local debate — a group of state officials heard a range of ideas from about 100 people, a crowd that skewed white and elderly. The four-hour plus meeting was at Louden Nelson Community Center.
People spoke about installing more user-friendly facilities, from increased picnic sites and fire rings to more bike trails, possibly in partnership with bike manufacturers. One person suggested student specials to increase youth participation, while another decried the state of bocce courts in Monterey State Historic Park.
A man suggested saving money with fewer large trucks for parks workers, drawing applause when he suggested wardens ride motorcycles. One woman complained that it cost $50 to park a horse trailer at a park, raising an issue — rising fees — that came up over and over following years during which the state has increasingly relied on users instead of the general fund to pay for California's 278 parks.
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Click here to learn more about the state commission charged with studying the system.