When you hear the phrase "state parks" you probably think of "the great outdoors". Majestic redwood forests on the north coast or golden beaches in the south. But there are quite a few indoor state parks, like Hearst Castle, or the Jack London house, or…
…the State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento. Wendy Williams is standing next to one of the massive vintage locomotives on display here. She's a mom shepherding a group of middle school students on a field trip from the town of Hanford, near Fresno.
"I have seven kids that…I'm actually missing three right now…where's my other three? There they are. Our school comes every year."
Williams says state parks like this are an effective way for kids to learn about California's history. But she says convincing voters to pass the California State Parks Initiative may be a challenge right now.
"The economy's really bad, people are not getting raises and so you're going to probably get some people that are going to not be very happy."
If approved, Proposition 21 would increase your annual vehicle registration fee by $18. In return, you'd get free entry into parks. The revenues from the higher fee would be put into a new trust fund for the state's park system.
"This is the solution to keeping our state parks open."
Traci Verardo-Torres is with the Yes on 21 campaign. She says repeated state budget crises over the years have taken a toll on state parks…and have resulted in a backlog of more than $1 billion in maintenance and repairs.
"Bathrooms are not functioning or closed all together. Trails get washed out and aren't being maintained. California's the only major state that has no dedicated funding source. And we're really leaving these legacies and these parks at risk."
But opponents call Prop 21 "ballot box budgeting". Patrick Dorinson is with the No on Prop 21 campaign.
"It's time for the legislature to prioritize the spending and figure out how to fund parks properly rather than once again going to the taxpayer well to try and fill their bucket."
Dorinson says Prop 21 doesn't hold state lawmakers accountable.
"People just don't want to be taxed again and it's not really the amount. It's the principle."
Proposition 21 is opposed by Americans for Prosperity and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Supporters include the Nature Conservancy and California Action for Healthy Kids.