Monday, June 1, 2009

A Letter To Our Representatives RE: State Park Closures

I just sent a letter concerning the closure of California State Parks via the California State Parks Foundation website, text follows below. If you are as disappointed as I am, feel free to write your representatives too. The link is at the bottom.:

Dear Legislators and the Governor,

I am seriously dismayed at the threat to basically shut down 80% of California's State Parks and pretty much all of the state parks in my region. I think it would be a mistake to shut down OUR parks for the following reasons:

1.) The State Parks represent a fraction of the state budget yet they attract millions of tourists and millions of tourist dollars from all over the country and the world. 

2.) Many small communities are heavily dependent on the tourist dollars that their local State Parks attract especially in places where they've transitioned from resource destruction to environmental conservation (i.e. from logging to eco-tourism). Park closures would destroy many of these communities.

3.) This one's for the governor: I hated exercise until I discovered hiking. Hiking is one of my main sources of exercise. Most of my favorite places to hike are in my State Parks. What if somebody threatened to shut down all of your gyms when you were becoming a body builder? 

4.) California State Parks are home to THE TALLEST trees in the world, hundreds of miles of protected coastline (a precious commodity considering our ever increasing development), endangered animals such as the California condor, and many also protect important watersheds that provide clean water for our communities. If there are no employees stationed to protect our parks, they will fall prey to unauthorized trespassing and potential abuse & vandalism (and what about those destructive illegal pot farms springing up on public lands guarded by outlaws with machine guns waiting to shoot a stray hiker?!?).

I voted yes on most of the latest propositions (except for 1C—we need to stop borrowing money we can't pay back). However, even though I was in the minority, I know how the majority feels, and to say that California voted down the latest propositions because "they don't want to pay for it" (it being services) is disingenuous. We are just tired of paying for waste. If we felt our money was being used as efficiently and usefully as possible we would have no problem paying more.

And because I don't want to see my parks shut down but realize the money needs to come from somewhere, this is what I propose: There were 33.2 million registered vehicles in California in 2006. So if there was a $20 state park fee added to the registration of each of those vehicles that guaranteed California state residents free entry (but not covering other fees, just entrance fees), that would mean $662,000,000 in funds to keep our parks running and maybe even allow them to catch up on some badly needed maintenance! And since registration fee payers are getting something in return (free entrance), it makes it much easier to swallow.

Like many I've been hit hard financially by the current recession, but would gladly find a way to pay that extra $20 if it went to my state parks and guaranteed me free entry into those beautiful places.

Rebecca Bond