Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, is trying to close a massive USD 26 billion budget gap, and has suggested that California can no longer keep its parks open. The Guardian (UK) writes: “It is hard to envisage a no-entry sign tagged to a towering redwood tree. But the recession – writ on an epic scale in California’s proposal to close 220 state parks – is forcing the American public to confront the closure of the great outdoors.”
According to the Guardian (UK), conservationists are arguing California can’t afford to close its parks. “Conservationists believe parks can withstand a year or so of closure without lasting harm. But fewer ranger stations will mean increased risk of vandalism, and less maintenance will lead to environmental degradation.” Additionally, one conservationist argues that parks are, in fact, revenue earners for the state. Tim Gibbs, program manager at the National Parks Conservation Association, said in comments to the Guardian: “Each visitor to a state park is worth $57 per visit. The parks have generated millions throughout California. It’s almost as if they are shooting themselves in the foot.”
The U.S. federal government seems to agree. “And this week the federal government appeared to partly agree, with the National Parks Service threatening to seize some of the sites if Schwarzenegger goes ahead with the closures.” The U.S. federal government’s National Park Service issued a warning letter to Governor Schwarzenegger that it would “use protection clauses under the original land deeds to the states, so as to take control of six parks in the San Francisco area, the dunes around the Big Sur and elsewhere.”
A proposed park shut-down would impact 80 percent of California’s natural preserves, historic parks, and recreation areas, and limit access to 30 percent of the state’s coastline. “Affected areas would stretch from the mountains of the Sierra Nevadas to the beaches and wetlands of Big Sur, and to the deserts of San Diego, where some of the last peninsular bighorn sheep roam.”
The Huffington Post said Schwarzenegger’s proposal would trim “$ 70 million in parks spending through June 30, 2010. An additional $143.4 million would be saved in the following fiscal year by keeping the parks closed.” California legislators rejected Governor Schwarzenegger’s plans to close parks last year.