Shasta College Student Essay: Keep State Parks Open

(Editor’s note: This is a Shasta College student essay, submitted for extra class credit as a letter to the editor.)

As far back as I can remember, my parents have always made a point that we “go check out” various recreational areas while on road trips or to specifically see certain places. Every December, for example, we would drive up to the Lassen National Park and adventure through the wilderness, trekking through three feet of snow, to find the “perfect” Christmas tree. I cannot forget times like these, and without the gracious state funding to keep parks like this open, I would never have gotten to have these wonderful experiences. Nature is something that one completely takes in; either with the distinctive smell of a dark green pine, a magnificent view of the sun peeking between two giant mountains or watching deer grazing in a lush meadow. What if these beautiful activities were taken away from us? Jerry Brown is planning to close 70 of 278 California State Parks because of our serious economic problems (Kcoy.com). California is so popular partly because of the available recreational activities. It is not worth trying to fix the budget deficit by closing these parks.

According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the parks are proposed to be closed for two years, resulting in 22 million total dollars’ worth of savings. Some local parks that are on the closure list include Castle Crags State Park, Bidwell Mansion, Weaverville Joss House, and Woodson Bridge Recreational Area, among many others. Hundreds of rangers working in these 70 parks will need to be laid off. How much money would this really save? Also, what would be the extra cost of reopening these parks without any upkeep? The labor costs alone would be costly. Another downside to closing state parks is that the state is at risk for being sued for doing so. This is because 11 of the 70 parks being closed are state beaches. According to Zak Weinberg, environmental studies major at the University of Santa Barbara, if the state were to disallow people to “access navigable waters”, the closure would “violate both the state constitution and the California Coastal Act of 1976.” Do the risks of closing some of these state parks really outweigh the benefits?

There are also environmental and logistical concerns that could arise, according to LA Times writer Tony Barboza. Most parks cannot be simply locked up. It can easily be done for a historical state park, such as the Jack London Historical Park in Sonoma County, to be closed without any issues. State beaches, however, such as the Mcgrath state beach in Ventura County, pose a bigger problem. There is no practical way to keep the public from trespassing through a beach. California State Parks Director, Ruth Coleman, cautions that the “trails will be overgrown, invasive species will flourish and infrastructure will fall further into disrepair.” Ranger of Henry W.Coe State Park, Stuart Organo, hypothesizes that with the state park patrollers and rangers no longer present, it will make it much easier for vandalism, the growing of marijuana, and poaching to occur. The many years spent to keep the land maintained and restored for the park visitors will become unnoticeable. Also, Barboza frighteningly predicts the safety of wide open expanses of rangerless land: “Need help? Don’t look for rangers or lifeguards. Call 911.” Coleman puts it into an accurate perspective: “And if you think the effect on natural resources is going to be minimal, just look at any home that’s been foreclosed.”

Is the state really going to sacrifice its resident’s recreation for some extra money? I hope not. There are many private groups that are working hard to provide funding to keep their local park open. For instance, when Chico residents found out that Bidwell Mansion was set to be closed, the community was very passionate about keeping it open and the California Department of Parks and Recreation opened a “Save the Mansion” fund to keep the park open (newsreview.com). If other communities like this one pulled together and let the government know how much their local parks truly mean to them, they might realize how much we do value our parks.

Works Cited

Barboza ,Tony. Los Angeles Times. September 11, 2011. Article. October 17, 2011.

California Department of Parks and Recreation. May 13, 2011. Web. October 17, 2011.

KCOY. Central Coast News. May 13, 2011. Web. October 17, 2011.

NewsReview. October 13, 2011. Web. October 17, 2011.

Weinberg , Zak. Modern Serenity. Kumani Group LLC. July 6, 2011. Web. October 18, 2011.

Click here for an explanation of the Shasta College student essay project.

Sarah Pendergraft is a freshman at Shasta college. She has lived in Redding and Anderson for her whole life and enjoys hiking, snowboarding, sports, and staying active in general.

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3 Responses

  1. Dear Editor,

    I am a board member of a 501 c3 association which supports the California State Mining and Mineral Museum. The museum is a state park and is also on the chopping block. Our board is in the process of preparing an agreement with CA Department of Parks and Recreation which will hopefully allow us, as a nonprofit, to operate the museum. The passage of AB 42 allows us to do that.

    Several other associations/foundations are also working on similar agreements. Some other groups have raised funding to pay state salaries and operating expenses, which will allow the parks to remain open and fully operated by DPR. However, the costs of operating any state park range from approximately $200k up per year, so it is difficult for many nonprofits to raise that kind of money. A third option is to try for a hybrid agreement where the nonprofit pays some of the expenses and volunteers take up the slack by working in the park..

    It is anybody's guess as to how long it will take the State of California to recover from the economic malady it suffers. Since AB 42 is in effect until 2019, it appears that is the approximate year DPR can resume full operation of its state parks. Therefore, if citizens want to keep their parks open, their best bet is to form nonprofits and establish strong volunteer programs.

    Betty Williams

  2. Avatar Canda says:

    Sarah, I enjoyed reading your well-written article on the sad proposal of our state parks. Your passion comes through loud and clear, and your descriptions in your first paragraph make me want to get in the car and drive up to Lassen right now! What a mess our state is in. The environmental concerns cited in your article are certainly valid. It's wonderful that concerned citizens are trying to save their precious parks through their own means, but what a shame it has come to that when taxes are already so high in California. Good luck to you as you pursue your education, and may you never lack open spaces to hike, snowboard, and have fun!

  3. Beautiful article and it is a shame what is happening to our state parks. Also your points on the increase in crime is spot on.