Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Beyond Stupid: California to Close State Parks

Despite enormous public pressure and assurances that it wouldn't happen, California is going ahead with its absolutely idiotic plan to close its State Parks to save an almost embarrassingly small amount of money.

The California State Parks won't be closed, except during the week and in certain seasons and, really, most of the time, according to a list of cutbacks released today.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decreed last month that no parks would be shuttered, but the $14.2 million he cut out of the state parks budget means many of the 278 parks in California will be open only on weekends and almost all will have to endure partial closures. Most of the closures begin next week.

The list prepared by park superintendents throughout California indicates that park visitors should also be advised not to expect many lifeguards or interpretive programs or parking spots or, for that matter, public restrooms, even in a pinch.

"The headlines last month were: 'The Governor Saves State Parks.' Uh, wait a minute. There is still a $14.2 million hit to the state budget," said Jerry Emory, spokesman for the California State Parks Foundation. "In fact, these service cuts might impact more parks systemwide. Before, we were looking at a list of 100 parks, including partial, full and seasonal closures. Now the plan is just to do that across the entire system."

There will be major cutbacks in the Bay Area, including campground, picnic and parking lot closures on Mount Tamalpais, Angel Island, Mount Diablo, Samuel P. Taylor, Tomales Bay and China Camp state parks. Facilities at Olompali State Historic Park, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area and the Benicia Capital State Historic Park will be closed.

The cuts were part of a deal Schwarzenegger signed in July to erase a $24 billion budget gap. The deal also chopped $22.2 million out of the 2010-11 parks budget.

The governor's plan is to keep the parks open through June 30, 2010, by closing campgrounds and facilities on weekdays, eliminating unfilled seasonal and administrative positions, and cutting back on maintenance and things like restroom cleaning.

Some $12.1 million will be saved this year by eliminating all major equipment purchases, including vehicle replacements.

Roy Stearns, the state parks spokesman, said $2.1 million will be saved by cutting seasonal and operations staffing and by not filling 350 vacant positions.

"What you see here are service reductions, like shutting down electricity, operating expenses, water, bathrooms, reducing the number of seasonal lifeguards, not picking up trash as often," Stearns said. "We're hoping to not lay anybody off, but to instead transfer people around where they are needed."

Mount Tamalpais is among the Bay Area locations most affected. The upper part of the mountain from Pantoll to East Peak and the Bootjack parking lot will be closed on weekdays, except some holidays, between Nov. 1 and June 30, 2010. The Alice Eastwood Group Camp will be closed from Nov. 1 to March 25, and the Frank Valley Horse Camp will be closed from Nov. 1 until June 30.

Some restroom facilities on Angel Island will be closed during the week and only a limited number of interpretive programs will be provided on the island. The Madrone Group Camp and Irving Group Picnic areas in Samuel P. Taylor park will be closed until March 25.

The Shell Beach and Millerton Point parking lots in Tomales Bay will be closed during the week, and all restroom facilities will be indefinitely shuttered.

The Back Ranch Meadows campground at China Campat China Camp will be open only on weekends and holidays through March 25, and the Weber and Buckeye Point recreation areas and the lower China Camp Village parking lot will be closed on weekdays through June 30.

Olompali State Historic Park will be closed Monday through Friday through June 30 as will six picnic areas at Mount Diablo State Park. The Live Oak campground, one of the two camping spots on the mountain, will be shut down until the end of June.

The main parking lot at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area will be closed on Thursdays and Fridays, and the Benicia Capital State Historic Park will be closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Idiot! I said in my last post that I wasn't a big fan of Schwarzenegger, because the guy has shown he is not above the sort of brain farts that regularly afflict our Legislature.

Here's how this will play out... areas now patrolled in remote areas will become pot farms and homeless encampments, while those in suburban areas will become magnets for crime. One untended campfire, one shoddy meth lab, one deranged homeless psycho with a lighter and BOOM - there goes what little money you would have saved just fighting the fires!

And they know this. This isn't about the money. It's about politics. This is a TINY amount of money that will almost assuredly be lost in emergency maintenance costs. But do these assholes care? No. Despite the massive opposition on behalf of environmental groups and the people, barely a peep is heard from the Legislature - they need their funding for welfare bums and illegal aliens too much to complain.

In one last, sad bit of supreme irony, The National Park Trust is giving Arnie a fucking award!

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is heading to the nation's capital this week to receive a national award from a park advocacy group, an honor that is being criticized by some park supporters in California.

The National Park Trust will honor the Republican governor Thursday with its Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award. The Rockville, Md.-based organization says it recognized Schwarzenegger for protecting thousands of acres of ranch land, creating the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, promoting youth fitness and addressing climate change.

In May, Schwarzenegger proposed saving $70 million by closing 220 of California's 279 state parks. He later moderated his proposal before eventually working out a deal with lawmakers to keep parks open by cutting spending elsewhere in the park department budget.

On Tuesday, he announced a list of service cuts and reduced operating hours that will remain in effect through at least June. Over the summer, Schwarzenegger opposed funding parks with a $15 surcharge on vehicle registrations, saying it amounted to a new tax.

"We think the governor has actually left the park system more vulnerable," said Traci Verardo-Torres, vice president of government affairs at the California State Parks Foundation.

"We would prefer that people not honor the governor under the guise of park protection until we see a real effort toward park protection by this administration."

State Sen. Mark Leno, a Democrat from San Francisco who sits on a committee overseeing state parks, called the timing of the award a "tragic irony." He said he hoped the award will encourage Schwarzenegger to do better.

Welcome to California. The Fast Lane to Hell.

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