The California State Parks system needs our support! Since the 1980's, California's state parks have been enduring budget cuts that have resulted in a $1.2 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Recently the National Trust for Historic Preservation put California's state parks system on its list of the 11 Most Endangered Places in the United States. Stewards consistently works to advocate for our parks and keep our members and supporters up-to-date on how they can join us in this effort.
April 22, 2011
Garnering Support for our State Parks
Thanks to each and every one of you who have done something this past week to support our State Parks. Whether is was visting your favorite park, contacting our legislators, signing up to volunteer or making a donation, each act of support is what will help us get through these unprecidented times.
It is really important to mention that organizations that have been working to Save our State Park over the past three years, are still keeping the goal of a sustainable funding source for State Parks in the forefront of our minds. After the defeat of Proposition 21 in November, we are re-thinking how best to achieve this long-term goal. It’s unfortunate that we are now distracted with having to come up with short-term solutions to keeping our parks open in the meantime.
Stewards will do what we can to support efforts at Annadel, Sugerloaf and Jack London State Parks with a consortuim of other nonprofit organizations. We are also working in partnership with the Fort Ross Interpretive Association on ways to raise awareness about all the State Parks in the Russian River District. The Fort is currently only open 2 days a week. We will be focusing most of our limited resources on Austin Creek State Recreation Area and the service reductions at Sonoma Coast State Park.
I am very pleased to report that our New Volunteer Orientation on Saturday was attended by a group of enthusiastic foks who are very motivated to get involved with volunteering in the parks supported by Stewards. As I have said many times, volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization and we offer something fulfilling for everyone.
Those that attended the Wildflower and Grasses EcoAdventure Saturday at Sonoma Coast (despite the windy conditions) had a chance to get up close and personal with an amazing variety of plants blooming at Shell Beach right now: mule ears, yarrow, dandelions, scarlet pimpernel, tiny geraniums, buttercups, checkerbloom, mustard & little grasses. Participants got to view these native plants with hand lenses and Papilio binoculars. Thanks to Hollis Bewley for providing a wonderful interpretive experience.
I am honored to mention a generous donation that we received this week from the Family of Owen and Virginia Keech Bird. Their family has been inspired by our local State Parks for many years. I am very excited to work with them on an exciting tribute to their parents at Armstrong Redwoods. They have also agreed to launch a giving challenge with their $5,000 lead gift. We invite you to join the challenge and help Stewards raise $50,000 in donations in the next four months. All monetary support from our special events, as well as, memberships, donations and sponsorships will help us reach our goal. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for ways that I can make a larger contribution meaningful for your family.
With everyone working together we will preserve our State Parks for future generations.
Michele Luna, Executive Director
HOW YOU CAN HELP SAVE OUR STATE PARKS
Become a VOLUNTEER in our parks. Visit our website for all the opportunities available. See below for new opportunities in Austin Creek SRA.
Write letters to your legislators. The easiest way is to do that is on the California State Park Foundation's website. They provide an opportunity to personalize their template if you choose and it's quick and easy.
Support Stewards with a DONATION to help us continue our efforts.
Volunteer for one of our special events this summer.
Support AB 42, a bill that will allow nonprofit organizations to enter into operating agreements with State Parks without having to go through a legislative process.
Above all, visit your local State Parks now while you can. We are blessed to have such beautiful parks in which to recreate, find solace and learn about our natural and cultural resource heritage.
Plan to Save Austin Creek SRA
Austin Creek State Recreation Area is comprised of 5,683 acres of oak woodlands, redwood forest, the headwaters of East Austin Creek, Fife Creek and Gilliam Creek. Elevations
within the park range from 150 feet above sea level to almost 1,900 feet on Marble Mine Ridge.
The park includes twenty miles of hiking trails, two backcountry camp sites and Bull Frog Pond campground with twenty-four sites. The area is popular with equestrians, hikers and bicylists (on service roads). Wildflower displays are incredible during the spring and the area is prolific with a diversity of native plants and wildlife.
In addition, Austin Creek’s historic Pond Farm Pottery was the home, workshop, and school of the internationally renowned ceramic artist, Marguerite Wildenhain. Don't miss a chance to tour Pond Farm with Laura Parent on Satuday, May 28th (register online).
Without people out and about in this park it could fall prey to more pot growing operations, threats of fire, and vandalism.
Plan to Keep Austin Creek Open - First Steps
Recruit and train volunteers to patrol by foot, horseback, and bike. Interested? Email email@example.com
In less then a week we already have people who have stepped up to be Volunteer Coordinators for our patrol efforts.
Raise money to purchase a small trailer for Bull Frog Pond campground to be used by a camphost. A donation of a small-sized trailer in good condition would be fabulous!
Support ongoing stewardship efforts by the Armstrong Redwoods/Austin Creek Trail Crew that meets the 2nd Wednesday of the month.
Garner support for our efforts through our special events this summer. Volunteers are need to staff our events (see below).
Create specific public relations strategies locally and engage businesses and resorts.
Look at the feasibility of entering into an operating agreement as soon as AB 42 is passed into law.
Solicit sponsors and DONATIONS to support these efforts.
Your support is needed - Thank you very much!
March 25, 2011
State Park Budget
In recent days, our State legislators passed a trailer bill that includes an $11 million cut for State Parks in the coming fiscal year, which will grow to $22 million in permanent cuts to the Department next year. We know this means park closures and additional service reductions, however a park closure list has not been released by the Governor’s office yet.
That list is rumored to contain 70 parks that are slated to close. In addition to closures, there will be many service reductions in parks that may not close entirely. In the Russian River District the following service reductions have been in affect since Fall of 2010 and most are slated to continue until July 1st. Fort Ross is closed during the week; 2/3 of the camping is closed at Bodega Dunes; several parking areas and restrooms are closed along the coast including Vista Point and Russian Gulch; Willow Creek and Pomo Canyon campgrounds are closed; Bull Frog Pond campground is closed in Austin Creek State Recreation Area. These reductions in service will become more apparent to the public when the weather gets better and they want to visit and camp in their favorite parks.
Obviously, State Parks are not alone in the budget crisis and many other agencies are waiting to see what will happen with the Governor’s proposal to put a tax extension measure on the June ballot. What is most concerning is the fact that if these taxes are not extended, the budget will be in much worse shape and it could mean even greater cuts to State Parks. So, it is not a pretty picture and the solution is to come up with new, creative options for keeping our parks operating for the benefit of the people of California.
Park Advocacy Day
On March 22nd, members of Stewards and about 160 other State Park advocates went to Sacramento to tell our legislators how important our State Parks are to our communities and to advocate, or express concern, for upcoming bills being taken up during this legislative session. There are bills being authored by the California State Parks Foundation that will make it easier for nonprofit organizations to enter into operating agreements with their State Parks (AB 42 - Huffman) and provide added protection for our parklands (SB 580 - Wolk). Organizations, like Stewards, might take on some aspect of operating our parks in order to keep them open. This means that we will need broad community support, just like the community in Jenner is helping Stewards keep the Visitor Center and restrooms open now. At Park Advocacy Day we asked our legislators to encourage the Governor to release the park closure list so we can start working on solutions now that will affect our parks in 2012.
January 12, 2011
Governor Brown announced his budget plan on Monday, which includes another $11 million cut for State Parks. The projected general fund cuts for State Parks are expected to grow to $22 million. We are already experiencing seasonal park closures and service reductions so this could mean greater cuts in the months ahead. State Parks are not alone, of course, and many State departments will be feeling the pain. The Govenor is also pushing for a revenue generating tax measure on the June ballot. It's very hard to say at this time how things will play out if the measure should pass or be defeated. I encourage you all to consider attending Park Advocacy Day in Sacramento on March 22nd. It's a wonderful opportunity to visit our elected officials and remind them how important our State Parks are to us.
Park Advocacy Day - March 22, 2011
Stewards has been a proud supporter of Park Advocacy Day for the past eight years. This year we will again take a group of people to Sacramento on March 22nd to advocate for our endangered State Parks. All the information that you need is on the California State Parks Foundation website. You need to register by February 12, 2011. Also contact Annie Cresswell at firstname.lastname@example.org to let her know that you are planning to go. We will arrange carpooling as needed.
Prop. 21 - Protect State Parks and Conserve Wildlife Californians Get Free, Year Round, Day-Use Access to State Parks, if Prop. 21 is Adopted
Spread the Word and Help us Save our State Parks!
Once considered to be the best in the nation, California’s 278 state parks now rank among the country’s most endangered sites. How did they go from the best to endangered? Call it death by a thousand cuts – in this case, budget cuts. Our parks are falling apart because of persistent underfunding.
State Parks Repair Backlog Tops $1 Billion
Roofs and sewage systems in state parks leak, restrooms aren’t cleaned regularly, trails are washed out and campgrounds and visitor centers are shuttered. The repair backlog in California state parks tops $1 billion, and it’s growing. As if that weren’t enough, twice in the past two years, the state parks were on the verge of being shut down. Only last-minute budget reprieves kept them open. Last year, nearly 150 state parks were shut
down part-time or suffered deep service reductions because of budget cuts, and more park closure proposals and budget cuts are expected this year.
On Sonoma Coast there were many day-use and camping areas closed, which affected our local economy. Business owners in Jenner, Fort Ross and Timber Cove reported drastic reductions in revenue during the months when these popular areas were closed.
Trust Fund to Provide Stable and Adequate Funding
That’s why Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Coastwalk and over 400 groups are supporting Prop. 21, California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010. Prop. 21 will protect state parks and conserve wildlife by establishing a Trust Fund in the state treasury that could only be spent on state parks, urban river parkways, wildlife, natural lands and ocean conservation programs.
Californians to Get Free, Year-Round, Day-Use Parks Admission
Funding will come from an $18 annual State Park Access Pass surcharge on all California vehicles, including motorcycles and recreational vehicles. Larger commercial vehicles, mobile homes and permanent trailers will be exempt. California vehicles will receive free, year-round, day-use admission to all state parks, in exchange for a new $18 annual fee that will support state parks and wildlife conservation. In comparison, park visitors currently pay up to $125 for an annual pass or $10-$15 per day at most parks.
Tough Safeguards Protect Public Funds
Spending from the Trust Fund will be subject to oversight by a citizen’s board, full public disclosure and independent annual audits. Money from the general fund – currently spent on parks – will be available for other vital needs, like schools, heath care, social services or public safety.
Parks Strengthen the Economy
Ensuring stable and adequate funding for state parks and wildlife will strengthen California’s economy, improve public health and protect natural resources.
State parks, which include historic sites and state beaches, attract millions of tourists every year. Those visitors spend $4.32 billion annually on park-related goods and services in California – or an average of $57.63 in the surrounding community on each visit, according to a recent study. Parks also entice visitors to exercise and lead healthier lifestyles, and they contribute to the public health by protecting forests and natural areas that are sources of clean air and water
Support State Parks, Join the Coalition
State parks are priceless public assets and vital legacies for our children and grandchildren. Please help protect them by joining the coalition at www.YesForStateParks.com. Check the website for the growing list of supporters.
Locally, this initiative is supported by the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, The Press Democrat, Russian River Chamber of Commerce, Coastwalk, Landpaths, Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sonoma Land Trust, Fort Ross Interpretive Association, Sonoma Petaluman State Historic Parks Association, and Valley of the Moon Natural History Association.
Stewards and Coastwalk will be organizing some Days of Action locally and if you are willing help please check out website for details or email email@example.com. We need your help to Save our State Parks.
Please Vote Yes on 21 on November 2nd!
Michele Luna, Executive Director
Nature Conservancy Video in support of Proposition 21
August 15, 2010
The State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010 is a statewide initiative on the November 2, 2010 ballot, that will provide a stable, reliable and adequate source of funding to protect state parks and conserve wildlife. The initiative will give California vehicles free admission to state parks in exchange for a new $18 vehicle license fee, which will be specifically dedicated to state parks and wildlife conservation.
The measure provides for a Citizen's Oversight Committee and an annual audit, both of which will ensure Californians that our $18 fee is used only for state parks, urban river parkways, wildlife, natural lands and ocean conservation programs.
We have all seen how budget cuts have starved state parks, causing them to accumulate a backlog of more than $1 billion in needed maintenance and repairs. Roofs and sewage systems leak, restrooms are not cleaned regularly, bridges have collapsed, trails are washed out, campgrounds and visitor centers are shuttered and buildings and structures throughout the system are badly deteriorated. Thousands of scenic acres are closed to the public because of reductions in park rangers, and crime has more than doubled. Destruction and vandalism of the parks themselves has grown fourfold, and beachgoers are often unprotected because of decreases in lifeguards. If this ballot measure does not pass in November we will see more of these conditions and certainly State Park closures.
This is our chance to SAVE OUR STATE PARKS and we need everyone to help us. In the months ahead, Stewards will again step up and get the word out to VOTE YES ON PROP 21!
Let me know if you can help in the following ways (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Provide park visitors with Prop 21 information in local State Parks and encourage them to Vote YES.
Attend the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting on August 24th to encourage their endorsement. Contact us for the details.
Endorse the campaign yourself at www.yesforstateparks.com and purchase items at their online store (bumper stickers and yard signs) to publicize the initiative.
Email your family and friends to encourage their support, join various facebook pages associated with supporting our parks and spreading the word!
The Governor's May Budget Revision - Restored funding for State Parks - May 16, 2010
This week the Governor included $140 million in funding for State Parks in his May revise however he is proposing drastic cuts in social service programs. This means that legislators will have a huge challenge before them as they work to pass a budget this summer. The funding for State Parks is at 2008-2009 levels, which are a fraction of what State Parks used to receive.
The California State Parks Foundation has posted an action alert campaign online at http://www.calparks.org/ , asking park supporters to send a message to legislators in support of state park funding. This also means that our work to pass the ballot measure in November is critical for achieving our goal of sustainable funding for our parks into the future and a way to address the huge backlog of deferred maintenance projects, restored staffing levels and the ability to manage new parklands.
We are awaiting a proposition number for the California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010. We are also working to request endorsements for local Governments, Chambers, Nonprofit Environmental Organizations and Individuals. Please take time to endorse the campaign at http://www.yesforstateparks.com/.
Thanks for your continued help and support.
February 25, 2010
With almost two months collecting signatures for the Save our State Parks Initiative, we are proud to report that Stewards' volunteers are very close to breaking 4,000 signatures! This fantastic effort has been supported by 32 volunteers. The top signature gatherer is Jack Norick who has collected over 1,000 signatures, mostly at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Also, Amy Racina, Keary Sorenson, Andy Kaufman, Kurt Whiting and Rich Lawton have collected many signatures. Everyone is doing their part and moving us closer to realizing our dream of a sustainable funding source for our parks.
Contact Michele Luna if you want to help us reach our 700,000 statewide goal. We will be collecting signatures until April 15th.
December 5, 2009
In 2010, we will be working very hard to get the California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund of 2010 on the November ballot.
Those who are willing to help gather signatures for this initiative are required to attend a signature gathering workshop. Stewards is sponsoring the first signature gathering workshop in the state and if you are not able to attend on December 12th, please let us know and we will put you on the list to be notified of the next workshop after the first of the year. Email email@example.com to register.
We anticipate starting to gather signatures after the first of the year through the middle of April.
November 6, 2009
It is with great hope that we report that a significant step towards sustainability for our State Parks was taken this week by the California State Parks Foundation and partners. On November 3rd a proposed statewide ballot measure was filed with the Attorney General's office. The "California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010, would create a stable, reliable and adequate source of funding to protect state parks and conserve California wildlife."
The State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund ("Trust Fund") revenues could only be spent on state parks, wildlife, natural lands and ocean conservation programs.
The Trust Fund would be funded by an $18 annual State Park Access Pass surcharge on all California cars, motorcycles and recreational vehicles that would be collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles as part of the annual vehicle license fee. Larger commercial vehicles (those subject to the Commercial Vehicle Registration Act), mobile homes and permanent trailers would be exempt.
Vehicles subject to the surcharge and all occupants of those vehicles would have free day use admission to all state parks throughout the year.
Trust Fund revenues would amount to approximately $500 million each year (based on about 28 million registered vehicles) and 85% would be allocated to state parks and 15% to other state wildlife and ocean protection agencies.
With a new dedicated revenue stream in place, approximately $130 million of General Fund dollars, that provide a portion of overall state parks funding, would now be available for other vital needs, like schools, health care, social services or public safety.
The Trust Fund would be subject to an independent audit by the State Auditor and a Citizens' Oversight Committee would be created to ensure funds are spent appropriately. Audit, oversight and administrative costs of this measure would be limited to 1% of the annual revenues.
Next Step - Qualified Signatures on Petitions
The next step will be to qualify enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot in November of 2010. Stewards will be spearheading this effort in Sonoma County and if you are willing to help, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, preferred email address and phone number. I will have more information after November 16th and will send out another update at that time.
October 28, 2009
The following list of Service Reductions in Russian River area State Parks was finally released:
Austin Creek State Recreation Area
• Bull Frog Pond Campground and Tom King/Mannings Flat I and II Backcountry Campsites closed November 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010
Sonoma Coast State Park
• Bodega Head East Day Use, Campbell Cove Day Use, Bodega Dunes Day Use, South Salmon Day Use, South Goat Rock and Blind Beach Day Use, Russian Gulch Day Use, and Vista Point Day Use closed November 2, 2009 to June 30, 2010
• Jenner Visitor Center and Public Restroom closed November 2. 2009 to June 30, 2010 (Note: Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, a State Park nonprofit cooperating association, is working hard to obtain funding to keep the Jenner Visitor Center and Public Restroom open).
• Bodega Dunes Campground partially closed November 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.
• Willow Creek and Pomo Canyon Campgrounds closed November 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.
Fort Ross State Historic Park
• Reef Campground and Day Use Area closed November 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.
• Fort Ross State Historic Park including Visitor Center and Fort Compound closed Monday through Thursday.
Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve
• Restroom Facilities closed November 2, 2009 to June 30, 2010.
Salt Point State Park
• Fisk Mill Day Use and Lower Gerstile Cove Day Use closed November 2, 2009 to June 30, 2010.
Stewards is working hard to restore the following services:
We are raising the funds needed to keep the State Park Visitor Center and public restrooms in Jenner open. Thanks to a generous contribution of $2,500 from the Sonoma Land Trust we are half way to reaching our $5,000 goal. Won't you consider helping us?
We are determined to continue providing opportunities for over 5,000 school children each year to use our Russian River area State Parks as their outdoor classrooms. This means funding portable restrooms for their use and maintaining the staff support needed for our docent-led environmental education programs.
With the reduction in seasonal park staff, we are organizing volunteers to staff the entrance station at Armstrong Redwoods SNR during the off season to encourage park users to pay required fees and provide park information.
At this time, it is looking promising that we will move forward under the leadership of the California State Parks Foundation to pass a ballot measure in November 2010 to provide sustainable funding for the State Park system. If approved, a surcharge on our annual vehicle license fee will provide Californians with a State Park Access Pass, allowing free day-use in almost all of California’s State Parks. Stewards will lead this effort in Sonoma County.
We are honored to have recently received another challenge grant from the Dean Witter Foundation for general support. The $20,000 award includes a $10,000 matching grant, which means we need your help to raise the $10,000 that will be matched by the Dean Witter Foundation dollar for dollar.
If you are able to donate now, before November 9th you will spare Stewards the expense of sending you a Year End Appeal letter.
October 12, 2009
While our Governor has said he will not close any State Parks, the reality is that we are going to see partial and seasonal closures, closed restrooms, new iron rangers for fee collection where they haven’t been before and the bottom line is that the millions of visitors who come to Sonoma County year-round to visit our State Parks will not have access to all that our parks have to offer in the coming months.
As most of you who have been following the news articles know, things change rapidly and our local State Park District has again been asked to rework their proposal as to how they can sustain this latest round of cuts. Originally, most of the cuts were going to be sustained by closing Fort Ross due to the cost of operating the park’s expensive water system. Now, without closing the Fort, those costs have to be distributed throughout the rest of the District, which is not an easy task.
As of this writing this is what I can report in regards to proposed service reductions:
Beginning November 1st, the Fort Ross Visitor Center and Fort compound will be closed Monday through Thursday, open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Reef Campground and day use area will be closed for additional months then normal.
Salt Point will have several day use closures for several months.
Very soon, Pomo Canyon Campground and Willow Creek Environmental Campgrounds will be closed for additional months then normal.
Also, very soon and for the first time, Bull Frog Pond Campground and the Back Country campsites in Austin Creek State Recreation Area will be closed for some months.
There will be very limited or no seasonal park aids to staff the entrance stations at Armstrong Redwoods and Sonoma Coast locations.
Day-use fee collection ($5 per vehicle) will begin for parking in the front parking lot by the Visitor Center at Armstrong Redwoods and some Day Use areas in Sonoma Coast State Park.
The Jenner Visitor Center and the restroom in the boat launch area will be closed for at least 7 months.
Other restrooms will be closed along Sonoma Coast, including south Goat Rock and Blind Beach at Sonoma Coast State Park.
How will this affect tourism and access to our State Parks? Well, everyone needs to use a restroom multiple times a day and while traveling they purposely stop along their route in search of restrooms. One of our docents, Lois Benson, wrote a letter to the Press Democrat Editor recently expressing concern about this very issue. People may have no choice but to pull off the road and find a secluded area to relieve themselves, thus fouling our beaches and park lands..
What are we doing about this?
The Fort Ross Interpretive Association is working on ways to restore services at the Fort and Salt Point. Stewards is working on the following ways to restore services at Armstrong Redwoods and Sonoma Coast.
We have contacted businesses and groups in Jenner asking for help in raising the $5,000 needed to keep the Visitor Center and restroom open for the next 7 months.
We will coordinate the staffing of the entrance station at Armstrong Redwoods during the week by trained Armstrong Redwoods/Austin Creek docents to help encourage park visitors to pay their fees.
We will provide portable restrooms at Pomo Canyon Campground as needed so we can continue to provide environmental education programs for school groups who participate in our Watershed Education and Environmental Living Programs.
We will support fee collection through the installation of iron rangers at beach locations on Sonoma Coast and at Armstrong.
We will help State Parks in any way asked to get us through this very difficult budget cycle.
Most importantly, we will coordinate the local effort in Sonoma County to get the State Park Access Pass on the ballot in November of 2010.
State Park Access Pass
You have heard about the State Park Access Pass, an annual $15 surcharge on our vehicle license fee in exchange for free day use in our State Parks, for the past couple years. Since we could not get the legislature to pass this proposal in the current budget we will now need to see if we can get this measure on the ballot in November of 2010. A number of our largest partner organizations, including the California State Parks Foundation, are looking at the feasibility of winning such a ballot measure. Despite the overwhelming support that we have received from our constituents and supporters, there are many people in California that are opposed to tax increases of any kind, noting that Californians pay the highest taxes in the nation. We don’t see this as a tax increase in the same way as others since the people of California would be receiving a huge benefit for paying this fee. Being able to access our parks for free and providing the funding needed to adequately fund them and even address the 1.2 billion dollars in deferred maintenance would allow State Park to exist independent of any general fund allocation, making the park system sustainable into the future. Many other states have been successful in providing for their parks in this way and we hope Californians will see their way clear to approve such a win win solution.
If it is decided that we should move forward with the ballot measure we will need to do the following in the months ahead.
In November, we will need to start collecting over a million signatures to qualify the required number for putting the measure on the ballot.
Then we will need to raise the funding needed to run a robust campaign to get California voters to vote YES.
In order for us to be successful in these efforts we need your monetary and volunteer support. Please support us with a donation if you can.
Ways for you to Help Stewards
Support our Quilt drawing with a donation online or at the Annual Membership Meeting on October 24, 2009. The drawing will take place at the Annual Volunteer Celebration on December 4, 2009.
Provide a generous year-end tax deductible donation to support our efforts to provided education and stewardship volunteer programs in our State Parks and to help restore reduced services in our parks during the State Park budget crisis.
September 18, 2009 Update
Well, it sure has been an interesting and frustrating week in regards to news about PARK CLOSURES!
We thought we would finally hear about which parks are closing after the list made it to the Governor's office, but then we heard the announcement was again delayed. There was lots of speculation about why and what was going on. Then yesterday, the reasons became more clear when an internal State Park memo was leaked to the organization, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
Basically, the memo draws attention to the many legal ramifications that could result from closing many State Parks. The memo cites:
Breach of concession contracts
Liability for fires that might start on closed parklands
Liability for not providing services, such as lifeguards on State beaches.
Not adhering to funding agreements that require that parklands purchased with these funds be accessible to the public.
Breach of a court-ordered ruling that State Parks make ADA improvements by 2016.
The need for a coastal development permit to close coastal parks.
Also, now Annadel State Park has been reported to be on the closure list, just as Fort Ross was a few weeks ago. Parks supporters are dismayed by this news and ready to fight to keep them open. This is a good thing - it's going to take everyone in our communities across the State to rally around keeping our parks open.
We are hopeful that our beloved Armstrong Redwoods might be spared a place on "the list" this time, but we are expecting to hear of seasonal closures and reduced services in Austin Creek and some beach locations on Sonoma Coast. Those details have not yet been released .
I have been telling you that Stewards is ready to jump into action as soon as the list is made public. This is still true and we are making more progress with our ideas and talking to other key agencies and elected officials in Sonoma County. We will work towards short-term solutions (over the next two years) and a long-term solution.
Our long-term solution is still the State Park Access Pass (SPAP), a $15 surcharge on our vehicle license fee. The feasibility of this option is still being explored by a number of statewide environmental and conservation groups. We are disappointed that after two tries, we have not been able to get the support we need from our state legislature. This means that we would be on our own to raise the money needed to put this measure on the ballot in November of 2010. There are many challenges ahead and wewill not give up.
I have been interviewed two times this week to bring attention to this issue and also to promote our Old Grove Festival. I have more interviews scheduled this coming week and I will be testifying at a hearing on Tuesday, September 22, before the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. This is an informational hearing on park closures and partnerships. Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) is convening this meeting in Sausalito and there will be an opportunity for the public to express their concern about our state parks.
You can help by paying your fees at park entrances and donating when fees are not required. Also, when you see a park employee, take a moment to thank them for all their hard work and dedication. They are taking 3 furlough days without pay each month and dealing with the stress of not knowing what might happen to their jobs if parks close.
Join us on August 29th and 30th at the Bodega Seafood, Art and Wine Festival as we particpate in a I (HEART) State Parks Weekend of Action. Show your support for our State Parks at this event by signing your message on a green hearts that will be taken to the Capital and shared with policy leaders after Labor Day.
July 28, 2009, Updated 8/4/09
Can we Keep our State Parks Open? Michele Luna, Executive Director of Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods
Well, now we know what we face! The Governor has cut an additional $6.2 million from the State Parks budget bringing the total to $14.2 million for the 2009/2010 fiscal year. That doesn’t count the 3 furlough days that State Park employees are required to take each month and the potential revenue losses with park closures. This is devastating news for our parks statewide. We can expect to see the potential closing of more than 100 State Parks after Labor Day unless local communities can attract financial sponsors to help keep them open. Seasonal and mid-week closures will also be considered. The Governor has put the responsibility on the people of California to keep our parks open through public private partnerships.
With the economy affecting so many people, we need our parks. Day use attendance is record breaking and our campgrounds are full because people are using our parks more then ever. State Parks provide an affordable vacation for most Californians. Where will they go to recreate with their families during these trying economic times?
Our local rural communities will suffer with the loss of tourism dollars. Russian River District State Parks attract close to 5 million visitors a year. That represents an influx of millions of dollars into our local economy. How will struggling local businesses survive? How many more small business owners will be forced to close their doors at the end of summer?
How can you help?
It's now up to us locally to come up with a strategy to keep Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Austin Creek State Recreation Area, Sonoma Coast State Park, Fort Ross State Historic Park and Salt Point State Park open in the Russian River District. Funding is needed to keep our facilities open, including Stewards’ office and our Visitor Centers. Our parks need our help in order to maintain essential services like water, sewage, electricity and trash pickup, to name just a few.
Park visitors have suggested fee increases, which we need to be receptive and ready for. Many of our parks are free for walk-in visitors. We hope that locals who use our parks daily for exercise and to walk their dogs will find a way to give back either by way of a monetary donation or by volunteering their time. Fees benefit the State Park System statewide. Donations to Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods (Stewards) and volunteer support for our special events, like the Bodega Seafood, Art and Wine Festival and the Old Grove Festival, will directly benefit our local State Parks. Either way, it’s going to take all of us contributing to keep our parks open.
The more life support we can provide, the greater opportunity there will be to reduce the number of parks that will close. If you are someone who thinks you can help bring significant financial support to our parks, please contact me. We will be convening a working group of people to move us forward with this effort as soon as possible. If you are able to contribute even a modest amount, we will put your donations to good use specifically to keep our local parks open.
Initially, we see this as a two-year project, after which we are hopeful that we can float a successful ballot measure that provides a sustainable funding source for our State Park System into the future.
The time is NOW to create a positive legacy for our grandchildren so they will not loose the chance to visit a State Park and learn about the fragile natural and cultural resources that NEED our stewardship into the future!
Here is a quote from the Associated Press. The devil will be in the details to follow.
From this Associated Press story in the San Jose Mercury News: "— Cuts about $8 million from state parks, allowing the majority of state parks, beaches and attractions to stay open. Some parks are likely to close, however, based on popularity and use."
This week the budget was taken up by the legislature and there was no progress made in approving the recommendations of the Budget Conference Committee. This also means that the State Parks Access Pass (SPAP) has not been taken up for approval. While it was mentioned on the floor of both houses, it's not getting the support it needs.
For this reason, the California State Parks Foundation is recommending that we now focus on contacting the BIG FIVE who will be working on recrafting a budget that will hopefully be acceptable to all. This may not include the SPAP, which is a huge disappointment. This also means that we have to fight to keep funding in the budget for State Parks. A $70 million cut for State Parks in the upcoming fiscal year means park closures.
We expect another vote to be taken on the budget early next week so it's very important that we all
TAKE THE FOLLOWING ACTION TODAY:
WRITE LETTERS TO THE BIG FIVE
Send your letter through the CA State Parks Foundation's website - CLICK HERE - it will automatically go to the Big Five. FAST AND EASY.
Mail your own letter OR Call the Big Five. Use this sample letter as a guide.
Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
State Capitol, First Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Honorable Darrell Steinberg
Senate President pro Tem
State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651 4006
Honorable Dennis Hollingsworth
Senate Republican Leader
State Capitol, Room 305
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651 4036
Honorable Karen Bass
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol, Room 219
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319 2047
Honorable Sam Blakeslee
Assembly Republican Leader
State Capitol, Room 3104
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 319 2033
Again, congratulations on a job well done. We are one step closer to Saving our State Parks. Today the Budget Conference Committee did two things, one bad and the other very good. The bad news is they removed funding for State Parks from the general fund and the good news is that they voted to enact the State Park Access Pass (SPAP), the California State Parks Foundation's proposal to institute a $15 surcharge on vehicle license fees of non-commercial vehicle. This will provide Californians with free day-use access to state parks and generate much-needed revenues for the system if approved by a 2/3 majority of the legislature.
Since this passed with members who are Democrats voting YES and Republicans voting NO, we are on to the next phase of our effort , which may not be so easy.
The budget recommendations from the Budget Conference Committee will become a Budget Bill that will go before each house of the legislature for approval and then to the Governor. Will they get the deed done before the State runs out of money in July? Your guess is as good as mine!
Please TAKE ACTION now by sending letters to support the State Parks Access Pass by way of the California State Parks Foundation's website.
ALSO we need to reach out to our friends and family members who live in districts where legislators aren't as supportive of tax or fee increases. Those legislators need to hear from their constituents that they support the SPAP.
Circulate this NEWPetition and return it to us asap. We will fax them to the California State Parks Foundation.
Encourage your friends and family to sign up to receive our E-newsletter so they can be kept up-to-date on our efforts to sustain our state parks into the future.
We also hope that many of you will show up for our State Parks Appreciation Day on Sunday, June 21st. it's going to be a wonderful morning as we join together and be inspired by one another's stories about how much our parks mean to us.
June 13, 2009
A NEW letter to members of the Budget Conference Committee is needed this weekend.
On Thursday, June 11, the Budget Conference Committee did address State Parks very briefly. There was some support expressed and an indication that they are hearing our economic concerns. The item was left open to deal with at a later time, which we now know may come up for a vote on Monday. They do not know where they will find the funds to cover the budget cut for parks. A number of ideas are being circulated but none seem to be optimum at this time. I need to express to you all that things are NOT looking good.
June 10, 2009
Our Supporters are phenomenal!! With their help Stewards faxed about 4,500 signatures to the California State Parks Foundation on Monday, June 9th. A number of businesses in Santa Rosa, almost all the businesses up and down Main Street in Guerneville, many Bodega Bay locations and a good many individual members of Stewards were incredibly supportive in helping us reach this impressive number. The numbers of letters that have been written and faxed or emailed to our legislative representatives in Sonoma County has also been near the top of the list statewide.
We also appreciate your supportive emails and suggestions for helping to keep our State Parks open. Right now we are awaiting the recommendation of the Budget Conference Committee. This bi-partisan group is meeting daily and going page by page through the governor's proposed budget. We expect them to address the State Park budget cuts later in the week and we are hoping for a positive recommendation. As soon as we hear, we will provide you with an update.
Join us for a State Parks Appreciation Day
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve June 21, 2009, 9:00 am to Noon FREE, except for parking fees
A wonderful Father's Day Event!
9:00 am - Walk with other State Park supporters through the ancient redwoods to the historic Forest Theater.
10:00 am - Traditional Campfire Program
10:30 am - Guest Speakers to date: Supervisor Efren Carrillo, State Park Archeologist Breck Parkman, Russian River Chamber President Margaret Kennett, Richard Nichols from Coastwalk, Recreation Business Owner Suki Waters, plus other legislative reps, park staff, and park user groups.
11:00 am - Share your stories, music, skits showing appreciation for your favorite State Parks.
Wear Green or a Green Ribbon
Beverages for sale
Plan a picnic in the park with your Dad after the event.
HELP US SPREAD THE WORD.
New Economic Impact Survey
On June 8, 2009, findings from a recent survey conducted by Sacramento State University were released. The survey found that visitors to California’s state parks spend an average of $4.32 billion per year in park-related expenditures, based on attendance estimates of about 74.9 million visitors a year. The survey found that park visitors spend an average of $57.63 per visit, including $24.63 inside state parks and $33 in local communities. Russian River area State Parks alone attract 4.1 million visitors a year and Sonoma County State Parks attract almost 5 million visitors a year. Do the math and we have further confirmation that closing state parks will devastate our Sonoma County economy to the tune of about $165 million a year.
June 4, 2009
On Tuesday, June 2nd one hundred State Park supporters attended the Budget Conference Committee meeting to testify against the Governors proposal to cut the General Fund allocation for State Parks. This cut could result in the closure of 220 State Parks including all the State Parks in Sonoma County.
We arrived at 9:30 am to lobby legislators and met with many staff members who were for the most part supportive. We stressed the economic impacts to our communities, the loss of lifeguard services at our beaches, the destruction of this incredible legacy started during the depression, and the loss of education for school children. The California State Parks Foundation did an excellent job organizing this effort in a very short time. We are very appreciative to them.
The Budget Conference Committee meeting started at 1:30. Resources shared the agenda with Prisons and we had to wait for them to present their recommendations and then for the public to testify. When it was time for the Commiittee to address Resources it was close to 4:30. The Legislative Analyst's Office recommended fee increases in lieu of State Park closures. We do support fee increases considering the dire situation our state is in but we don't want to raise fees to the point where the public has to think twice about whether or not they can afford to visit our parks.
When we got our chance to testify, we each had 60 seconds to speak. Testimony lasted until about 8:00 pm. I want to thank Fred Luna, Suki Waters and Clara Bolster who also testified from Stewards. We made a great team and were happy to see that the Press Democrat covered our issues with a letter to the editor on Tuesdayand articles on Wednesda and Thursday.
It's hard to know what will happen but the Conference Committee is planning to wade through all the budget issues and come up with their recommendations by next week. I am most worried about Armstrong Redwoods since it was on the close list last year.
State Parks Tourist Dollars Fuel Local Economies and
General Fund Revenue
SACRAMENTO – The State of California contributes roughly one tenth of one per cent of its General Fund Budget toward the costs of operating California’s 279 state parks. Yet the parks generate billions in revenue for private businesses, resulting in hundreds of millions in State tax revenue. Over 100,000 private sector jobs are dependent on the spending by park visitors in local businesses.
The 2008-09 budget for California State Parks includes $149 million from the state’s tax-based General Fund. This represents just slightly more than one-tenth of one percent of the state's total General Fund Budget ($149 million divided by $103.4 billion = 0.13%).
Assuming a $15 billion deficit in the overall state budget, then entirely eliminating the Department of Parks and Recreation and closing all 279 state parks in California would fill less than 1 percent of the need.
At this point, it is important for the public to understand that an examination of the numbers shows that reducing the budget of California State Parks will do little to improve the state budget gap. It would, however, cause significant harm to local economies and reduce the State’s General Fund revenue even further.
State Parks is a critical piece of California's travel and tourism industry generating more than 75 million visitor days every year
Based on a 2002 study, visitors generate more than $6.5 billion dollars in total output and new sales for private businesses in communities around State parks yearly as a result of visitor spending. The tax revenue from that spending generates $2.35 in General Fund revenue for the State for every dollar of General Fund received by State Parks to operate the system (primarily from sales and income taxes on the travel and tourism industry). [ The Role of California State Parks in the California Economic System, James R. King, JK Inc., December 2002]
Therefore, based on the study, saving $149 million by closing State Parks would cost the General Fund more than twice that amount in lost revenue (more than $350 million). Also, eliminating that $149 million also eliminates the $6.5 billion in profits generated by visitor spending in local businesses around parks.
The clear conclusion is: Cutting parks will reduce the number of park visitors, thereby reducing visitor spending and revenue to private businesses by tens of millions, causing job layoffs and damage to local economies. And in the end, that will reduce tax revenue to the State making the State budget situation worse, not better.
May 29, 2009
PLEASE Act Now to Save our State Parks
Parks in Sonoma County on the Close List:
Armstrong Redwoods SR
Austin Creek SRA
Fort Ross SHP
Jack London SHP
Kruse Rhododendron SR
Petaluma Adobe SHP
Salt Point SP
Sonoma Coast SB
TALKING POINTS FROM THE CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS FOUNDATION:
Beginning July 1st, the Governor will cut the parks core funding in half and then eliminate all core funding in twelve months. Without this money, there will be no choice but to close the majority of our park system.
Even if you are not planning to visit a park soon, the governor's short-sighted proposal will impact you and every California resident. It is the very definition of "penny-wise, pound foolish". Consider the facts:
FACT: The General Fund budget that state parks receive accounts for less than 1/10 of one percent of the entire state budget.
FACT: Last year alone, there were over 80 million visitors to state parks – and all indications are that this year was going to be even higher.
FACT: For every dollar that funds the parks, $2.35 is returned to the state's General Fund through economic activities in the communities surrounding the parks.
That means eliminating all funding for state parks could actually result in the state losing over $350 million dollars in revenue.
For the financial well-being of our state, we must oppose this reckless plan. I have had the displeasure of notifying you of threats to our parks in the past. But this is the worst threat to park system in its 150 year history.
Closing parks will have a ripple effect that will cause further economic turmoil in towns across the state already reeling from bad economic decisions made in Sacramento. Closing state parks not only loses potential revenue within the park, but will cause losses to the local economies in communities that surround the state parks as well.
To stop this short-sighted plan, we need to show the strength of our 100,000 members, so we need you to take the following two actions?before it is too late.
Last year, when the Governor proposed his first ill-conceived plan to close 48 state parks, it was only because of the public outrage that our parks remained open.
Our members came out in force and descended upon our state capital with over 50,000 petitions of outrage.
This year his plan is even more drastic. So we must once again show the Governor that we will not stand idly by while he makes bad decisions that will impact our families and our state's fiscal stability.
And during these horrible economic times when more and more residents are relying upon our state parks as low-cost alternatives to expensive vacation plans, this is the worst time to enact such a short-sighted plan.
We need you today to sign the enclosed petitions and send them back immediately, along with the most generous emergency contribution today, to save our state parks - before it is too late.
Thank you in advance for once again coming to the rescue of our parks.
May 27, 2009 On May 26th the governor's finance officials released the following details on how the governor would cut $5.5 billion out of the budget through June 2010 - included is a plan to reduce $70 million in funding for State Parks by reducing their general fund allocation. That could mean the closure of 80% of our State Parks. Read more HERE.
May 22, 2009
In May of 2009 our govenor is again threatening our beloved State Parks. Read more HERE and we will be keeping you up-to-date on this page of our website and through our E-Newsletter. Sign up HERE.
In January 2008, Stewards mobilized a huge local effort to Save our State Parks, when California's Governor proposed closing 48 State Parks as a solution to the State's budget crisis. On March 13, 2008, Stewards held a town hall meeting in Guerneville that was attended by over 500 park supporters. In addition, Stewards chartered a bus with 60 people who traveled to Sacramento for Park Advocacy Day on April 7th to join the voices of over 200 supporters who rallied to KEEP OUR PARKS OPEN.
On May 14, 2008 the Governor removed the proposal to close 48 State Parks in the May revision to the budget. While we are pleased with this victory there is still a need to advocate for and insure a sustainable funding source for California's treasured State Parks.
Please join Stewards and the California State Parks Foundation in this effort!
Support the Park Access Pass (SPAP)
The California State Parks Access Pass is a proposal to provide critical funding for the state park system, while offering Californians free day-use access to their state parks. It creates a new funding stream for supporting California's state parks by instituting a $15 surcharge on vehicle license fees of all non-commercial vehicles in California and some light commercial vehicles.
Just think - no more threats to close our State Parks and adequate funding to address the $1.2 billion deferred maintenance backlog. In addition, new projects to enhance visitors' enjoyment of our parks will be funded.
Please Help Ensure the Future of Our State Parks
Call or write your local legislators (contact info. at bottom of this page). Tell them that it is unacceptable to close our State Parks.
Russian River District Project to be Funded by the SPAP
Service Learning Field Study Project Development & Implementation
Armstrong Visitor Center Planning and Implementation Project
Jenner Visitor Center Reconstruction
District Wide Trails Reconstruction and Program
Wright’s Beach Campground Renovation
Willow Creek Access
Willow Creek Watershed Restoration Project
Fife Creek Watershed Restoration Project
Fort Ross Call Barn Reconstruction
Salt Point Wells Fargo Building Restoration
Press Releases - 2008
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods Encouraged by Announcement of California State Park Access Program
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods expresses their strong support for the California State Parks Access program announced by Assemblymember John Laird (D-Santa Cruz). The new program will bring over $200 million annually in new funding to support the state park system, while providing free day-use access to California state parks.
This program goes a long way towards providing the funding needed to address the $1.2 billion deferred maintenance shortfall that currently exists in our state parks. The deferred maintenance projects in the Russian River District total in the millions. We have been anxiously waiting for a long-term solution to go along with the Governor’s news on May 14th that closing 48 state parks is off the table. We are very appreciative of the work done by the California State Parks Foundation and Assemblymember Laird to develop this program.
"California’s state parks are finally being thrown the financial life preserver they’ve so desperately needed for decades,” declared Elizabeth Goldstein, President of the California State Parks Foundation. "The California State Parks Foundation believes that a solution to the underlying fiscal crisis in our state park system is the only way to truly save our state parks."
Stewards is committed to working with the California State Parks Foundation and Assemblymember Laird to gain the Legislature’s and Governor’s support for this critical program. The Save Our State Parks Campaign continues with a new phase.
Representatives for the Sonoma County Area
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814