Tuesday, 28 June 2022

State Senators Evans and Simitian unveil plan to keep state parks open

On Tuesday state Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) and state Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) unveiled a budget proposal to keep open up to 50 state parks slated for closure this year while providing a stable and long-term funding solution that will keep all parks open.

As many as 70 state parks had been slated for closure beginning July 1, 2012. Among them is Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, which the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association is negotiating with the state to run.

The essence of Evans' and Simitian's “Sustainable Parks Proposal” is:

Providing assistance to non-profit partners working for operating agreements for state parks;

  • Finding “new ways of working” in the parks, including allowing parks to become more entrepreneurial and allowing more personnel flexibility;
  • Accessing up to $121 million of existing funding sources that may be appropriately used for park purposes over a five year period, including using up to $10 million/year of existing funds collected the Motor Vehicle Account, $21 million from the Local Assistance Program, and $10 million/year from the Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund.

The Sustainable Parks Proposal will be up in Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation, which is chaired by Simitian, on Wednesday, May 9, at 2:30 p.m. in room 4203 in the State Capitol.

“This plan is worthy of the legacy that has been left in our trust,” said Evans, who represents the North Coast, including Lake County, in the California Senate “I am thankful for Sen. Simitian’s dedication to a solution-oriented and sustainable long term funding plan to keep parks open and thriving. Utilizing existing funds, providing flexibility and giving needed assistance to our nonprofit partners will keep parks in the public trust for generations to come.”

“It’s unacceptable to imagine putting up the ‘closed’ sign on these precious public resources,” said Simitian. “It’s also penny-wise and pound foolish. Closed parks are easy prey for crime, fire and vandalism. If we work together creatively to keep these parks open, we can prevent the kind of problems that will end up costing California far more in the long run.”

Simitian noted as well that state parks “are an extraordinary economic asset for California. They pump tourism and hospitality dollars into the economy, and create jobs in the process.”

The proposal also would give Californians voluntary opportunities to support the parks. Under the proposal, Californians could purchase a specialty parks license plate for a fee and give a voluntary donation at the time of their vehicle renewal.

“I believe this is a solid proposal that will set the financial foundation for saving our parks,” continued Evans.  “In the short term, we will be able to keep most of our parks open this year, and in the long run, it will help make our park system stronger and more creative.”

Last May, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) announced that 70 parks would close due to budget cuts.

Since then, nonprofit organizations and the public, as well as local and federal agencies, have stepped up efforts to find ways to fund the parks – many signing operating agreements with the state – and the number of parks slated to shut dropped to 54 last month.

To help encourage these community efforts, the proposal would also include extending liability coverage to local and nonprofit agencies that work in partnership to manage the parks.

“The effort that the California Parks Foundation and other nonprofit organizations have put forward to keep parks open has been nothing short of heroic,” said Simitian. “Their hard work and innovation are the good news in these tough budget times. We want to continue to encourage these creative partnerships. The state parks belong to all of us, and we’re all going to have to work together to keep them going.”

Evans is the author of two bills complimentary to the Sustainable Parks Proposal. SB 974 requires transparency and public involvement in future closures and a planning process to reopen parks. SB 1078 helps focus DPR on innovative revenue generation projects.

A full copy of the eight-point Sustainable Parks Proposal can be seen below.

050812 Evans and Simitian Sustainable Parks Proposal

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