California State Parks Safe for Two Years
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday that will keep state parks open in California for the next two years.
The moratorium on closures was the final outcome from a scandal that broke in July, when it was discovered that state park officials had put aside $54 million in “hidden assets.” The money could have been used to address the $22 million in state budget cuts that threatened to close down 70 parks in 2011. Instead, it went unreported.
Those responsible lost their jobs, and the new legislation is seen as the next step forward. Several other measures should help the parks get back on their feet.
One bill provides $10 million to match private donations to keep specific parks open, $10 million to support other parks in danger of closure and $10 million for maintenance needs in other areas. The State Park and Recreation Commission will also get more money to oversee the Parks and Recreation Department to prevent future scandals.
Another bill requires the parks department to create a plan to increase private revenue for state sites. For instance, Californians might be allowed to apply part of their tax refund to the parks in exchange for an annual park pass.
A third bill aims to place more emphasis on conservation in the Department of Fish and Game, and provides for the creation of an environmental crimes task force to help prosecute crimes against wildlife.