California Cleanup Yields 320 Tons of Trash

September 17, 2012 by · Comments Off on California Cleanup Yields 320 Tons of Trash 

Almost 60,000 volunteers throughout 55 counties in California took part in this year’s “California Coastal Cleanup Day” on Sept. 15.

This year was the 28th annual state-sponsored cleanup event and in three hours, volunteers succeeded in removing 320 tons of garbage and debris from 850 different sites, both inland and coastal, the Latinos Post reported.

California Coastal Cleanup Day 2012 was supported by the California Coastal Commission, California State Parks Foundation and the Ocean Conservancy. The state received additional support from Whole Food, Oracle, Clif Bar, Union Bank, Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water and many more.

“The results (from this year’s cleanup) will provide us with a baseline against which we can measure future cleanup data from those same locations,” Eben Schwartz, marine debris cleanup manager for the California Coastal Commission, said in a statement. “Volunteers collect data during every Coastal Cleanup Day, and this year is no different. However, with the potential for a significant increase in the amount of ocean-borne debris reaching California, it is important that we monitor the data closely so that we know where to direct our volunteers and resources in the coming months.”


  • In San Mateo County, which had the highest number of people participating, 4,029 volunteers showed up and removed 27,364 pounds of trash and recyclables.
  • The second biggest turnout was in Alameda County and there 3,475 volunteers collected 27,117 pounds of trash and recyclables.
  • Third place in terms of turn-out size, Contra Costa County had 2,980 volunteers remove 16,000 pounds of trash and recyclables.
  • In Santa Clara County there were fewer volunteers but they managed to collect more garbage than in any of the aforementioned counties. 1,643 volunteers removed 44,811 pounds of trash and recyclables.

As part of the event, there was the “2012 Most Unusual Item” contest. Lots of unusual items were found, including a 1962 Dodge convertible at the Almeda Resevoir.

Two winners were chosen for the contest, however. They were a concrete statue of a rabbit, found in Shasta County and an old, degraded love letter found at Kehoe Beach in Marin County. The letter was read aloud at a celebratory BBQ at the Bay Model Visitor Center after the cleanup. Whole Foods awarded those two winners each with a $50 gift card to their stores.

The volunteers for this year’s event included California residents, school students and employees at non-profit organizations and private companies.

The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed 11-year-old Eva Macy, who was at the cleanup with a group from her school. She was asked about her findings during the event – at the time she was holding a bucketful of metal, glass and plastic that she’d found after sifting through sand.

“When I look at this bucket I don’t know what to say,” Macy told the Chronicle. “Why do people put this here? Don’t they have any consideration for wildlife?”


Hidden Funds May Hold Silver Lining

August 24, 2012 by · Comments Off on Hidden Funds May Hold Silver Lining 

There may be a “silver lining” to the California state parks fund scandal for Palomar Mountain State Park, an advocate and fundraiser for the scenic park said on Thursday (Aug. 23).

The North County Times reported that state lawmakers are considering using some of the $54 million in hidden state park funds uncovered last month to match private donations that flowed in for parks slated for closure last year, according to the advocate and a letter from the California State Parks Foundation.

The disclosure of the hidden park funds followed warnings from the state that 70 parks would be shuttered July 1 because of lack of money — a move that never took place.

The fund scandal led to the resignation of top parks officials last month.

“There could be a silver lining from all this,” said the advocate, Rick Barclay, chairman of the nonprofit Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park, referring to the possible use of some of the previously undisclosed money. “It’s good for Palomar.”

Barclay said lawmakers could approve Assembly Bill 1478 within the next week. If approved as written, that bill would designate $10 million for dollar-to-dollar matches for all contributions to parks that signed deals with the state for the 2012-13 fiscal year, according to the foundation’s letter.

Another $10 million would be directed to parks “that remain at risk of closure,” the letter said.

Campgrounds at the picturesque Palomar Mountain park, about an hour northeast of Escondido, closed in October because of state budget cuts. That left the park open for day use only.

The state reopened the campgrounds in April as the nonprofit raised money.

The mountain park has more than 11 miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, a fishing pond, meadows and coniferous forests on 1,862 acres. It is often compared with recreational spots in the Sierra Nevada.

Barclay’s nonprofit signed a three-year deal with the state to use the money it raised to keep Palomar open. The nonprofit has about $130,000 in donations in the bank, Barclay said.

Some pledges, however, fell through after the parks fund scandal was disclosed, he said.

“We had a couple pledgers who cited the (scandal) as reason for not following through,” Barclay said. “But not one has asked for their money back. We take that as a good sign.”

The nonprofit has decided to temporarily pause its fundraising campaign “to wait and see how the dust settles,” he added.

Nedra Martinez, a top parks official for the region, did not return a call for comment on Thursday.



State Park Fund Stash May Delay Closures

July 24, 2012 by · Comments Off on State Park Fund Stash May Delay Closures 

California Gov. Jerry Brown will work with lawmakers to determine how some of the $54 million stashed by the parks department can be used to help keep state parks open, a spokeswoman for the governor said Monday (July 23) as supporters who helped raise millions for the beleaguered system urged that the money be used for that purpose, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Elizabeth Ashford, a spokeswoman for Brown, said that his administration “is going to work with legislators to determine how this money can be used to mitigate park closures.”

On Friday, state officials said they had opened an investigation after learning that the California Department of Parks and Recreation had failed to report for more than a decade that it had $54 million stowed in special funds. Parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned, and her deputy was fired.

Nonprofit leaders who raise money to benefit state parks said that using the newly discovered money for park operations will be a key step toward rebuilding public trust. But they warned that the windfall alone wouldn’t solve the troubled system’s problems.

Next steps

“It is just appalling,” said Ann Briggs of the Coe Park Preservation Fund, which gave the state $279,000 in privately raised money to keep Henry W. Coe State Park in Santa Clara County open this year. “We don’t know what to think. … Our reaction has been one of total surprise, total shock that this has happened. We are not sure what is going to be the next step.”

The state, which has chronic deficits, slashed the parks department budget by more than $50 million over the past four years. Additionally, the parks department has deferred $1.3 billion in maintenance, said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the nonprofit California State Parks Foundation.

“We were shocked and a little bit appalled by this,” Goldstein said. “The community … has been working really, really hard to find solutions to keep parks open, and clearly many members of the department have been working alongside us, so when we hear there are financial resources that weren’t brought to bear, it’s hard to hear.”

Goldstein said the millions of dollars identified Friday do not change the system’s long-term challenges and may not even solve its short-term problems.

It’s still not clear why the parks department had squirreled away the $54 million or who knew about it. Coleman, the former parks director, has said she only recently learned of the extra money.

70 parks

It was Coleman who warned last year that the department had no other choice but to close 70 parks this year to deal with the most recent budget cut of $22 million.

Goldstein said state lawmakers, who have power over how that money is spent, should “do the right thing” when they reconvene in August and appropriate at least some of the money to this year’s state parks budget.

It does not appear that all of the funding could be used for general park operations: While $20.4 million of it is in a fund meant for exactly that, the other $33.5 million is in the Off-Highway Vehicle Fund, and at least a portion of it is legally earmarked for off-highway vehicle parks.

There have been transfers out of that fund in the past, but there are outstanding legal questions about how much of the fund the state can use on other park spending. If any of the money is transferred out, there would likely be legal challenges, several state officials said.

Park supporters said that while the governor’s pledge appears to be the right thing to do, it doesn’t mitigate the frustration and disappointment that park lovers around the state are feeling, nor does it immediately answer questions about the future of many parks.

Lauren Dixon, deputy director of the Parks Alliance of Sonoma County, said the group has worked with 20 nonprofits to help save five parks in Sonoma County from closure, including Austin Creek State Recreation Area. A local nonprofit was in the process of finalizing an agreement to keep Austin Creek open when the news broke last week, Dixon said, and the future of that contract is now up in the air.

Tax measure

And at least one alliance-sponsored project was derailed immediately on word of Friday’s news, she said: a quarter-cent Sonoma County tax measure.

But she and other nonprofit leaders around the state said donors should not feel as if their money is going to be wasted.

“The nice thing is that we are able to tell people here, everyone who has given us money, that all the money stayed here – every single dollar that was given to us is still going to go to keeping local parks open,” Dixon said. “We aren’t the state, and we are doing this in the first place because the state was not able to follow through with its promise on public lands, and we needed to find a way to keep these parks open for the people of Sonoma County.”

Calif. Bill Would Allow Nonprofits to Run Parks

October 6, 2011 by · Comments Off on Calif. Bill Would Allow Nonprofits to Run Parks 

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will allow some state parks scheduled for closure to remain open if qualified nonprofit organizations agree to run them, according to a report by the Bay Citizen, San Francisco.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman’s Assembly Bill 42 authorizes the California Department of Parks and Recreation to enter into agreements with the nonprofits.

Seventy state parks are scheduled to close next summer because of the state budget deficit.

“Particularly in these tough economic times, creative public/private partnerships are an essential tool in providing ongoing protection of, and continuing access to these public assets,” Huffman said.

California State Parks Foundation President Elizabeth Goldstein said the foundation will continue to work with nonprofit groups that want to protect the parks. She said Huffman’s bill will lessen the blow from park closures and encourage other groups to get involved in saving the parks.

Initiative Meant to Save California’s State Park System

January 11, 2010 by · Comments Off on Initiative Meant to Save California’s State Park System 

California State Parks logoSupporters on Jan. 8 officially launched the volunteer signature-gathering campaign for the “California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010,” a statewide ballot measure to create a stable, reliable and adequate source of funding to protect state parks, conserve wildlife and increase public access to these valuable natural resources.

The initiative will give California vehicles free admission to state parks in exchange for a new $18 vehicle license fee, which will be specifically dedicated to state parks and wildlife conservation, according to a news release.

Volunteers from the California State Parks Foundation, Sierra Club California, Audubon California and many other organizations and groups will join paid staff in gathering more than 477,000 valid signatures by mid-April to qualify the measure for the Nov. 2 statewide ballot. For more information on the volunteer signature-gathering campaign, visit

“With persistent underfunding placing our state parks in peril, we are thrilled to see so many volunteers willing to devote their time and energy to gathering the signatures needed to place a measure on the ballot that would create a dedicated source of funding to protect our parks and wildlife,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation. “The outpouring of public support for the ballot measure demonstrates Californians’ commitment to protecting our parks and wildlife for generations to come.”

California’s 278 state parks attract about 80 million visits a year and include vast stretches of sandy beaches, much-needed recreational areas in bustling urban areas and an abundance of the Golden State’s history and culture. In recent years, budget cuts have starved the state’s parks, causing them to accumulate a backlog of more than $1 billion in needed maintenance and repairs and leading to partial closures and reductions in operating hours at nearly 60 state parks.

“California’s state parks were among the best in the nation, and now they rank among America’s most endangered sites,” said Graham Chisholm, executive director of Audubon California. “The state parks have fallen so far behind in maintenance and repairs that many have leaking roofs and sewage systems, collapsed bridges, washed-out trails, restrooms that aren’t cleaned regularly, badly deteriorated structures and shuttered campgrounds and visitor centers.”

The ballot measure would create a trust fund for parks and wildlife conservation with funding from an $18 annual State Park Access Pass surcharge on most California vehicles, including motorcycles and recreational vehicles. Larger commercial vehicles, mobile homes and permanent trailers would be exempt.

Vehicles subject to the surcharge would receive free, year-round admission to all state parks. Californians would no longer have to pay day-use fees at any state parks – fees that can be as much as $125 for an annual pass or $10-$15 per day. Out-of-state vehicles would continue to pay full entrance fees at parks.

Crime has more than doubled and thousands of scenic acres are closed to the public because of reductions in park rangers. Destruction and vandalism of the parks themselves has grown fourfold, and beachgoers are often unprotected because of decreases in lifeguards.

Because of the state’s budgetary woes, state parks were on the brink of closure twice in the past two years. Only last-minute budget reprieves kept them open. But current budget cuts have forced partial closures or reduced hours of operation at nearly 60 state parks, and more park closure proposals and budget cuts are expected this year.

With a new dedicated stream of revenue, state general fund dollars – that have historically provided a portion of overall state parks funding – would be available for other vital needs, like schools, health care, social services and public safety.

The California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010 was developed by a statewide coalition committed to protecting state parks and natural resources. California’s 278 state parks are priceless public assets, important economic engines and a vital legacy for our children and grandchildren.

However, persistent budget cuts are starving state parks, causing them to fall severely behind in needed maintenance and repairs. The measure would establish a dedicated and reliable funding stream for state parks and natural resources to ensure they can be enjoyed for generations to come. For more information, please visit

All California State Parks to Remain Open, Sort Of

September 28, 2009 by · Comments Off on All California State Parks to Remain Open, Sort Of 


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Under fire from park supporters and the state’s own attorneys, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he has found a way to cut millions of dollars out of the California State Parks budget without completely closing any parks.

The plan, which some are criticizing as little more than a shell game, slashes $14.2 million from the park budget this year by closing some campgrounds and facilities on weekdays, eliminating unfilled seasonal and administrative positions and cutting back on maintenance and things like bathroom cleaning, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The idea is to allow all 279 state parks to remain open this fiscal year. More options would be explored Jan. 10 when legislators consider next year’s budget, according to a statement the governor released Friday (Sept. 25).

“Working closely with my departments of finance and parks and recreation, we have successfully found a way to avoid closing parks this year,” the statement read. “This is fantastic news for all Californians.”

But several officials familiar with the park budget negotiations said the plan may not be all that the governor’s spin machine has promised. The plan does not restore any money taken out of the park budget, the critics said, meaning that even if the gates remain open there will not be enough personnel or resources to run the parks.

“I’m hugely skeptical that you can have the kind of savings that the governor is proposing without having park closures either explicitly or functionally,” said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who is chairman of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. “I’m concerned that the administration may be trying to have it both ways. He’s functionally closing parks but trying not to face the heat of closing parks.”

The budget cuts were part of a deal Schwarzenegger signed in July to erase a $24 billion budget gap. In addition to the $14.2 million in cuts to parks this fiscal year, the deal also chopped $22.2 million out of the 2010-11 parks budget. The governor said Friday that he hopes to find more money for the parks next year.

Park officials had said the 20% cut would require them to close 100 state parks, including some of the state’s most popular wildland areas. The list of which parks would be closed was never released.

The plan came under fire from legislators, environmental organizations, park supporters and residents of communities where businesses rely on park visitors to spend money.

The state’s own lawyers cautioned park officials that the closures would potentially leave them liable for voided concessionaire contracts and for injuries or fires in unattended state parks.

The governor’s new parks plan is to save $12.1 million this year by eliminating all major equipment purchases, including vehicle replacements, and a further $2.1 million by cutting seasonal and operations staffing and opening some parks only on weekends and holidays. He did not say which parks would be affected.

Although all the parks would remain open at least part time, selected campgrounds and facilities would be closed, and visitor services provided by rangers, custodians and maintenance workers would be drastically reduced, according to the plan.

Parks spokesman Roy Stearns said the staffing cuts can be accomplished by eliminating vacant positions.

“There are going to be reductions in service, but the bottom line is all those parks will stay open at the busy times when people are using them,” Stearns said. “Next year is a new ballgame, but the administration said it will help us find solutions.”

california-state-parks-foundation-logoElizabeth Goldstein, executive director of the California State Parks Foundation, said everything the governor is proposing had previously been discussed.

“The governor finally realized that the political and economic consequences of closing parks are enormous and he is now trying to heal a self-inflicted wound,” Goldstein said. “The public is going to need to understand in the coming weeks what the level of service reductions are going to be. The implications of this are at the moment unclear.”

The proposal to close the parks was quickly becoming a Gordian knot around the necks of the governor and park officials. Besides the legal ramifications, federal grant money was at stake. The National Park Service could have seized land in as many as six parks, including Angel Island, that were once owned by the federal government.

Additionally, nobody seemed to know exactly how they were going to keep the public — let alone marijuana growers and other criminals — out of the forests, woodlands, wetlands and beaches. Park officials even floated the idea of establishing neighborhood watch-style groups to prevent illegal activity.

The budget cuts are clearly going to be difficult whether or not the parks stay open. California’s state parks, which cover 1.5 million acres, have already absorbed years of cost cutting and staff reductions and had $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance on the books even before the latest crisis.

Dan Jacobson, legislative director of the nonprofit group Environment California, said he is thrilled the parks will stay open even though the battle is far from over.

“What this whole debacle points out is that we need to find a stable funding system for our parks,” he said. “The onus is going to have to be on the state Legislature in 2010 to pass permanent protection for our state parks.”

California Ups State Park Entry, Camping Fees

August 12, 2009 by · Comments Off on California Ups State Park Entry, Camping Fees 

Stung by budget cuts, California’s state park system will increase day use parking fees by $2 to $5, and camping fees by $10 to $21 a night, state parks director Ruth Coleman announced Tuesday (Aug. 11).

“In these dire economic times, we can no longer afford to keep our fees at their current levels,” Coleman said. “By charging more, we will be able to keep more parks open and preserved for these and future generations.”

However, although the fee increase may help keep some parks open, the state continues to study closing as many as 100 parks, following historic cuts to its budget by state lawmakers last month, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Exactly how much more it will cost to enjoy each state park, beach or forest won’t be known until the department releases its final list Monday. The fees will then go into effect immediately.

Roy Stearns, a spokesman for the parks department, said that every one of the 279 state parks that collects fees – including the towering redwoods at Big Basin, Angel Island, Mount Diablo and state beaches from Santa Cruz to San Diego – will see increases, probably to the highest levels in history.

Entrance fees now range from $4 to $14 per vehicle, depending on the park. Camping fees range from $10 to $44 a night.

Parks that have the highest attendance will see fees jump the most, Stearns said. That means places like Big Basin Redwoods State Park near Boulder Creek, with more than 1 million visitors a year, could see fees increase from the current $7 per car to $10 or more.

And the most popular campsites, such as Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, where recreational vehicles can park literally adjacent to the sand, could go from $44 a night to as high as $65 a night.

People who already have reservations won’t have to pay the fee increases.

The fee hikes will raise about $1.5 million a year. That means parks leaders still will have to close at least one-third of California’s state parks in the coming weeks, Stearns said.

“This helps to maybe keep a few open,” he said. Those parks will be announced after Labor Day. Parks with the lowest attendance are most likely to close. Stearns said that the department is scrambling to find partnerships with cities, counties, corporations and nonprofit groups to help keep as many parks as possible open.

Last month, for example, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors announced it will study whether it can afford to use county park rangers to keep open the 90,000-acre Henry Coe State Park near Morgan Hill, which otherwise would be expected to close due to its low visitation.

California has never closed state parks, even during the Depression.

But this year, as part of the budget that the Legislature approved in July to close California’s record $24 billion deficit, state parks took an $8 million reduction. Schwarzenegger then cut an additional $6.2 million through line-item vetoes. After lost revenues from park closures are factored in, the total hit to the department will be about $39 million, Coleman estimated, on a $387 million operating budget.

Some lawmakers who voted against parks funding last month are now balking at parks in their districts possibly closing.

Contending it was a tax, Republicans in the Legislature killed a plan supported by environmental groups and Democrats to impose a $15 surcharge on vehicle registrations that would have doubled the state park budget while giving every California resident free admission to all state parks.

But last week, state Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Fresno, sent Coleman a letter saying he had “deep concerns” about the potential closures of parks in his district, such as Turlock Lake, and urging her to “weigh the devastating economic consequences.”

Too late, say environmentalists.

“It’s too bad that Sen. Cogdill didn’t take this into account before we got to this stage,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation.

Goldstein said her organization is studying whether it can raise the money to put the $15 annual fee up for a vote on the November 2010 state ballot.