FRESNO BEE EDITORIAL: State must find ways to keep parks open to public
California is preparing to close as many as 70 state parks this summer to help solve the state budget mess. It's a bad idea, especially in this economy. Parks belong to the people -- they should be places where families can find inexpensive recreation.
Gov. Jerry Brown should be looking for ways to keep the parks open, and state lawmakers need to help him. They need to make wise budget decisions as they bring expenditures in line with revenues. Parks have value well beyond their annual operating costs.
We are intrigued to hear of a plan by state Sens. Joe Simitian and Noreen Evans to shift some state funding to keep about 50 parks open. While we need to hear more details, our initial view is positive.
The Simitian/Evans proposal would transfer as much as $40 million from state accounts for road maintenance, septic system repairs, trails and off-highway vehicle funds to cover operating the parks, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Their plan also would look at seeking operating agreements with nonprofit groups, improving collection of park entry fees and coming up with other funding sources, like license plates and concessions agreements.
"The state has never closed a state park. Not even in the Great Depression," Evans said. "We have handled this challenge before in a way that was positive for the state parks."
In addition to the parks not being available, we also are concerned about the impact of closing parks so that they don't deteriorate. As we said in an editorial last year on the issue, how do you close parks, or put them in "caretaker" status without damaging them? They will be vandalized, and it would end up being very costly to get them in shape for a future reopening.
The Simitian/Evans plan is promising. It's time for state leaders to figure out how to keep parks open and not be so quick to think the only option is closing them.