Say Goodbye to Parks

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    BOSTON - OCTOBER 13: Fall Foliage in the Arboretum, a nature preserve in Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, on October 13, 2006. (Photo by Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

    You might want to take a stroll in your neighborhood park now, just in case it's about to get shut down.

    After Prop 21 was defeated in last week's election, park officials are scrambling to identify funding sources to keep state parks open and running. The ballot measure would have imposed an $18 surcharge on vehicle fees to maintain wildlife areas.

    Despite the loss, Prop 21's proponents are hopeful that Jerry Brown and other newly-elected state leaders will make park funding a priority. Prop 21's opponents responded by cackling sinisterly and stomping on a gopher.

    There are nearly 300 state parks in California, and Prop 21 would have established a trust fund to take care of them. But without that money, some parks will have to be prioritized over others, and that could mean closure. Many parks are already stretched to the breaking point, with a single ranger assigned to look after thousands of acres. The entire system has a budget of $230 million, down $2 million from last year.

    There are other options besides closure: parks may charge visitors for parking, or raise fees for campgrounds. Or private organizations may have to step up and provide the services that the state can't afford.

    If the money doesn't come from car registration, it's simply going to have to come from someplace else. So next time you visit a park, expect to either see a big "closed" sign or to shell out a few extra bucks.