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(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.
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.
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.