State Park Closures on 2012 Agenda

The bad economy is making its way to some of the state's greatest natural treasures.

A quarter of California’s state parks are slated to close this summer due to a lack of state funds, but state environmental groups are waging a campaign to stop the closures.

"Californians have said time and again (that) we want to keep our parks open and we think it’s imperative that they’re kept open at this critical juncture," said Michelle Kinman with Environment California.

The state needs $22 million to keep all of its 278 parks open, funds the legislature has said they do not have. Seventy of the parks are threatened with closure.

A public-private partnership has been suggested as a way to stave off the closures, but Kinman said the parks can make it on their own.

"The parks are not only paying for themselves, but they’re already supporting local communities," she said.

Henry Coe state park in Santa Clara County was saved by such a partnership. The Bay Area park is no longer on the closure list thanks to private money.

State parks generate $4.32 billion a year in local business and $300 million in sales tax revenue, Kinman said.

State parks are supported by the general fund, which is often vulnerable to slashing, Kinman said. Environment California would like to see the Golden State create a dedicated funding source to support the parks.

Some ideas for park-dedicated revenue include collecting a portion of the state’s unpaid taxes or charging a fee for extracting oil from California’s 27 off-shore rigs.

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