Opinion » Commentaries

Don't close the parks

Just run them more efficiently



Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to close 48 California State Parks in his budget. He states that the parks would be closed until enough money is available to reopen them.

How many temporary closures, cutbacks in services, or tax increases in the past were ever reversed due to enough money being available?

If these parks are closed, it won't take long for them to become overgrown. The structures will deteriorate, and it will cost thousands of dollars to bring them back to a safe condition for reopening.

Our state parks belong to all the residents of our state. They're the only affordable means of vacationing and recreation for many young families and senior citizens on limited budgets. They offer precious time spent in the wilderness or at the ocean. They provide trails for hiking, biking, and equestrian use, and are nature's classrooms for children. There's a broad variety of outdoor recreation at the 48 parks mentioned.

Each park is conveniently located for the residents of that particular area. With rising fuel costs, having to travel farther to a park will render it impossible for many of these residents to visit.

Solutions? Run them more efficiently!

My husband and I are frequent campers and day visitors at California State Parks, and we witness nonsensical wastes of park funds. The most obvious is the employment of more rangers than needed per park. We often see two rangers per vehicle, with more than one such vehicle "patrolling" one park. This, at a time when many of our police officers and sheriffs have to patrol alone due to budget cuts.

Along with a self-register kiosk for campers and day-users, a park can operate with one ranger. He or she can collect fees from the kiosk pole and match the envelopes with license plates, making his or her presence known while doing so.

In addition, there are many retired couples who are willing to be park hosts. They clean bathrooms, collect fees, and generally oversee a park in exchange for a small monetary allowance and an RV hookup. 911 emergency help--whether it be fire-, medical-, or misbehavior-related--is as close as the cell phones of 90 percent of those in the park. Pay phones are also available.

We see California Highway Patrol vehicles drive through state parks as well, affording additional security. One ranger could then pick up fee envelopes, make his presence known by driving through more than one park at least once a day--more than once for parks geographically close.

Regarding park upkeep, including litter removal, trimming, clearing trails, mowing, painting, fence mending, etc.: We have an adopt-a-highway program. We could have an adopt-a-state park program as well. Prison honor crews could exercise while earning their keep. Welfare recipients and those in state-funded alcohol- or drug-abuse programs could be required to earn part of their assistance by putting in hours. State college and high school students can earn their community hours. The state willingly helps those in need--let those in need who are able bodied gratefully help the state.

Any buildings or areas in need of expensive major repair can be locked and barricaded, either permanently or "until enough money is available" for such repair.

There are practical solutions along with reasonable raises in park fees that could keep our parks open without draining park funds.

Let Gov. Schwarzenegger know his proposed budget cut regarding our state parks will mean losing support from those of us who will not accept this.

Nancy Shipley is a Nipomo resident. Send comments to the editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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