It couldn't be a better time to visit one of California's gorgeous state parks -- the weather's nice, it's relatively cheap and thanks to a new online site, it's easier than ever to find a nearby park.
In fact, reservations for campgrounds and other facilities for the summer months are up five percent from last year.
So what's the problem? Money.
While the system staved off massive closures last year, park maintenance, staffing and facilities were rolled back and the structural problems with revenue persist.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent decision to not pursue offshore drilling means another $100 million hole -- money that was supposed to come from the Tranquillon Ridge project -- has been blown in the budget.
Schwarzenegger plans to announce his plans to fund the facilities on Friday.
A plan to charge motorists an $18 in exchange for free admission to all the state's locations has supporters, but if one is uneasy about funding wilderness with offshore drilling money, it's hard to see why attaching what amounts to environmental spending to California's dependence on car culture makes any more sense.
Either way, get to the parks while the gettin' is still relatively good. Unless something's done, more closures and dirtier, more dangerous parks are all that can be expected.
Photo by Franco Folini.
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