California state parks officials recently announced the closure of 70 parks because of the state budget deficit, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget plan proposed reducing the state parks budget by $22 million. The Legislature in March approved $11 million in cuts to state parks and $10 million in cuts to off highway vehicle parks in the next fiscal year, with $22 million in cuts to state parks in future years.
The California State Parks System was directed to identify which parks would close based on attendance rates and historical significance. The department operates more than 270 state park units covering more than 1.4 million acres.
“We regret closing any park,” Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, said in a statement. “But with the proposed budget reductions over the next two years, we can no longer afford to operate all parks within the system.”
The department at first said service reductions will begin over the summer and closures will begin in September, but later announced that the parks will not be fully closed until July 1, 2012. The cuts have not yet been signed by Brown, so a final list could grow or shrink based on the actions the Legislature takes to close the budget deficit.
Parks officials said they tried to protect the most significant cultural and natural resources, while maintaining the parks that provided the most public access and state revenue. In addition, the department intends to seek partnership agreements with local governments and non-profits in attempt to keep some of the parks open. They said 92% of total park attendance will be retained and 94% of existing revenues even with the closures.