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State Park Closures: Status Report

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, September 5, 2011

Brannan Island State Recreation Area in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta isn't well-known statewide.  But the finger of land surrounded by a web of waterways is a popular fishing, swimming and camping spot for people who live nearby:

Billie Oliver: "We've raised our kids out here practically and our oldest one's 60, so we haven't been coming out here that long, but at least 50 years."

80-year old Billie Oliver spent Labor Day weekend RV camping with a group of friends, a Chihuahua and a Dachshund.  She says it's tradition to spend the big summer holidays at Brannan Island - and that's not always easy to do:

Billie Oliver: "It's hard to get in because you gotta call like on the minute - to get in here - what is it - 7, 7 months ahead to get in and if you don't call right then you don't get in because this is a busy place and I can't understand why they're closing it down."

A few hundred yards from Oliver's RV, Lydia and Victor Alvadaro are setting up a blue and green Coleman tent for the night.  Lydia's 84-year-old mother Guadalupe looks on from a picnic table. 

The Alvarados live about 20 minutes away in Oakley and didn't know the park was closing.  Lydia says the nearness of the park to home is what makes it possible for her mother to camp with the family:

Lydia Alvarado "Otherwise, If we had to go somewhere else farther than here, she wouldn't be able to go."

Just one campsite away, Lydia's brother, Gonzalo Esqueda has already set up his tent.  He lives in nearby Antioch and has been coming here for 15 years:

Gonzalo Esqueda:  "Every year at least twice a year…so now I gotta go look for another place and I probably won't end up going nowhere."

Brannan Island State Recreation Area - like most of the 70 parks on the state's closure list - won't close officially until next July.  But some parks that are always shuttered for the winter season will start locking their gates this fall - and simply won't re-open.  And there are already service reductions at every state park. For example, Brannan Island has been closed three days a week since May and some camping loops and restrooms aren't open:

Ruth Coleman: "CA has never closed its parks in its history, through two world wars and the great depression."

State Parks Director Ruth Coleman says it's the only way to absorb an 11 million dollar budget cut this year - and a 22 million dollar hit next year: 

Ruth Coleman: "We consider that this 22 million dollar cut is permanent and we are operating, that that's what we're looking at for the next few years, I would say a horizon of 4-5 years."

Coleman says there are efforts to save parks by partnering with local governments, nonprofit organizations and concessionaries.  So far she's hopeful about possible collaborations in Sonoma and Marin counties.  And Coleman says some "closed" parks may still have open gates, with the hope that hikers will keep an eye out for vandalism and other problems:

Ruth Coleman: "That's our initial strategy is to allow the public to continue to use parts of it, but to recognize that we have withdrawn all of our services, so there won't be flush toilets, there won't be a ranger on duty, there won't be a maintenance person taking out the trash, so you ned to pack out everything you bring in." but we are hoping that people will continue to go and watch the parks and let us know if they see something that's bad."

H.D. Palmer with the State's Department of Finance says the park closures are regrettable, but says the multi-billion dollar budget gap required cuts to many areas.  He notes that even with the closures, 92 percent of current attendance will be maintained. 

Last week the California Senate passed a bill that will allow the state to partner with non-profit organizations to help keep parks open.  That legislation heads back to the Assembly for final approval this week.  It has something that's rare for a bill in the legislature:  broad support from both Democrats and Republicans.


Complete List of Park Closures, Effective July 1, 2012:

(Information From California Department of State Parks and Recreation):

Anderson Marsh SHP

Annadel SP

Antelope Valley Indian Museum

Austin Creek SRA

Bale Grist Mill SHP

Benbow Lake SRA

Benicia Capitol SHP

Benicia SRA

Bidwell Mansion SHP

Bothe-Napa Valley SP

Brannan Island SRA

California Mining & Mineral Museum

Candlestick Point SRA

Castle Crags SP

Castle Rock SP

China Camp SP

Colusa-Sacramento River SRA

Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP

Fort Humboldt SHP

Fort Tejon SHP

Garrapata SP

George J. Hatfield SRA

Governor's Mansion SHP

Gray Whale Cove SB

Greenwood SB

Grizzly Creek Redwoods SP

Hendy Woods SP

Henry W. Coe SP

Jack London SHP

Jug Handle SNR

Leland Stanford Mansion SHP

Limekiln SP

Los Encinos SHP

Malakoff Diggins SHP

Manchester SP

McConnell SRA

McGrath SB

Mono Lake Tufa SNR

Morro Strand SB

Moss Landing SB

Olompali SHP

Palomar Mountain SP

Petaluma Adobe SHP

Picacho SRA

Pio Pico SHP

Plumas-Eureka SP

Point Cabrillo Light Station

Portola Redwoods SP

Providence Mountains SRA

Railtown 1897 SHP

Russian Gulch SP

Saddleback Butte SP

Salton Sea SRA

Samuel P. Taylor SP

San Pasqual Battlefield SHP

Santa Cruz Mission SHP

Santa Susana Pass SHP

Shasta SHP

South Yuba River SP

Standish-Hickey SRA

Sugarloaf Ridge SP

Tomales Bay SP

Tule Elk SNR

Turlock Lake SRA

Twin Lakes SB

Weaverville Joss House SHP

Westport-Union Landing SB

William B. Ide Adobe SHP

Woodson Bridge SRA

Zmudowski SB

*Information From the State Department of Parks and Recreation



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