All California parks will remain open

By golly, it’s a bloody miracle, that’s what it is.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just put out an official announcement saying no state parks will close after all. (My colleague Paul Rogers at the San Jose Mercury News wrote a story Wednesday saying this would happen.)

The governor does not mention, however, that closing the parks was his idea in the first place. As I recall, he said we all had to share in the budget cut pain.

But I am grateful nonetheless. I like parks. And I confess, I was dubious about the success of the idea that we can close of a whole mountain like Mt. Diablo or an entire island, like Angel Island.

Read on for the governor’s press release.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today unveiled a plan that would allow for all state parks to remain open without increasing the Department of Parks and Recreation budget appropriation. Following the passage of the budget reduction in July, the Governor tasked the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Finance to work together on a plan to achieve $14.2 million in budget savings in the current fiscal year while mitigating the number of park closures.

“Working closely with my Departments of Finance and Parks and Recreation, we have successfully found a way to avoid closing parks this year,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “This is fantastic news for all Californians.”

Below is the memo from the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Finance outlining the budget solution:

Date: September 24, 2009

To:       Paul Feist, Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary

From:   Ruth Coleman, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation

Ana Matosantos, Chief Deputy Director, Department of Finance

Subject: Solution to Avoid Park Closures

After several weeks of analyzing Parks’ initial proposal to achieve savings in the 2009-10 budget, an alternative solution has been developed that achieves the necessary savings and avoids full and complete park closures.

Parks’ initial proposal included a plan to fully and partially close over 100 state parks. Several of the parks identified on the initial closure list had among the highest attendance throughout the state park system. However, after further discussion and analysis, Finance was able to determine that several of these parks on the closure list were actually not being proposed to be closed, but were going to remain open with substantial service reductions. Furthermore, the parks that were identified on the closure list included closure plans that differed significantly from one park to another. In some cases, the parks were proposed to be fully, or 100 percent, closed. In other cases, the parks were proposed to be less than 1 percent closed.

To avoid full and complete park closures while achieving the budgeted savings, the Administration can take the following actions:

  • In the current fiscal year, Parks can achieve one-time budget savings in the following manner:
    Maintenance and Equipment: Reduce ongoing maintenance for the remainder of 2009-10 and eliminate all major equipment purchases, such as vehicle replacements. (Savings estimated at $12.1 million)
    Service Reductions: Reducing hours and/or days of operation at most State Park units, reducing expenditures on seasonal staff, reducing staffing and operations at Headquarters (Savings estimated at $2.1 million). Examples of service reductions include; (1) some facilities will close weekdays and be open on weekends and holidays, (2) portions of a unit may be closed, such as the back loop of a campground, (3) for a park with multiple campgrounds, one whole campground or day use facility may be closed while the rest of the park remains open, and (4) parks that already close due to seasonal conditions may see a longer closure. Service reductions will be planned to minimize disruptions to visitors, achieve cost savings and maintain park fee revenues.
  • To achieve the $22.2 million of ongoing future General Fund savings that was included in the 2009 Budget Act, the Administration can explore various solutions for inclusion in the January 10 budget to generate ongoing budget savings while minimizing full and complete park closures.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen