I’m back today, having spent all last week camping at Manresa State Beach, about eight miles south of Santa Cruz. It was gorgeous by day, and there’s nothing more soothing than listening to the crashing of waves upon a beach as you fall asleep in your tent each night. And, at $25 a night, it was a vacation even a journalist could afford.
Why am I telling you? Because this trip made me that much more positive that closing or reducing services at state parks, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed in his original 2008-09 budget proposal, would be a travesty. Manresa wasn’t targeted for closure, but it was among the state beaches at which lifeguard service was to be reduced. He backed off the plan in his May revision.
I said it once and I’ll say it again: This is public land, bought and protected with taxpayer funds so all Californians — rich or poor, young or old, white or of color — could have a chance to see their own place in the natural world. I saw an enormous diversity of people enjoying the campgrounds and the beach last week, enjoying and respecting a fantastic natural resource.
We’ve neglected these parks and beaches with ever-dwindling budgets for decades; it’s time at least to leave ‘em alone, if not to find a way to shore up their infrastructure so future generations can enjoy them, too. Maybe the answer is something like the California State Park Access Pass program that Assembly Budget Committee Chairman John Laird suggested this spring: instituting a $10 surcharge on vehicle license fees of all non-commercial vehicles and a subset of commercial vehicles in California, and using that money to provide Californians with free day-use access to virtually all state parks, with no day-use or parking fees required. (Interesting coincidence: Manresa State Beach is in Laird’s district.)
Or maybe that’s not the best plan. But we need a far-sighted solution, not more knee-jerk cuts.