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Up to 70 State Parks Slated for Closure in Budget Saving Plan [Updated]

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Tule Elk State Reserve in Kern County is one of the many state parks that cut back hours and days of operation over a year ago due to budget cuts. Now it is one of the 70 expected to close. | Photo by Zach Behrens/KCET
Tule Elk State Reserve in Kern County is one of the many state parks that cut back hours and days of operation over a year ago due to budget cuts. Now it is one of the 70 expected to close. | Photo by Zach Behrens/KCET

Citing budget constraints, the state is planning to close about 25% of the 278 parks it maintains, officials announced today. The move has been expected for several months, but exact details were not known until now.

Many popular Los Angeles area parks and beaches like Topanga, Malibu Creek and Crystal Cove will remain open. "You want to try to keep the biggest and strongest backbone of the system open," explained Parks Spokesperson Roy Stearns over the phone. Affected parks in Southern California include Los Encincos State Historic Park, Salton Sea State Recreational Area and Palomar Mountain (a complete list and map is below).

"These cuts are unfortunate, but the state's current budget crisis demands that tough decisions be made," said Resources Secretary John Laird in a statement. "Hopefully, Republicans in the legislature will agree to allow California voters to decide whether we extend currently existing taxes or make deeper cuts to our parks."

Officials explained that despite the closures, 92% of current attendance will be retained at the remaining 208 parks, and 94% of direct revenue generated will be preserved. Closures are planned for July 2012, but service reductions, to be decided by regional district offices, may occur between now and then.

Officials also pointed to the potential of keeping parks open through partnership agreements. "We already have 32 operating agreements with our partners - cities, counties and non-profits - to operate state parks, and will be working statewide to expand that successful template," explained Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, referring to properties like Santa Monica Beach and the Verdugo Mountains, which are managed by local entities.

[Update #1: "This constitutes the first time in the 100 year history of California state parks that a serious, deliberate effort has been made to significantly reduce the state parks system," said Eilzabeth Goldstein of the California State Parks Foundation, which opposes the closures and is questioning the state's ability to effectively keep people out of the parks, especially in light of threats like vandalism, theft and other illegal activities that occur even when parks are fully staffed. "Many of the parks on the list have multiple and varied entry points," the Foundation noted. Henry Coe State Park in Northern California, for example, is listed for closure and is the state's second biggest park at over 86,000 acres.

The non-profit also crunched the numbers and found that the closures impact 36 of California's 58 counties, and that 40% of the state's historic parks, often visited by students on school field trips, are listed. Jack London State Historic Park, where the California author lived, is one of those.]

[Update #2: Governor Jerry Brown expressed sobering words, but did not hint to a reversal of the plan, only towards preventing even more cuts. "Closing state parks is not a task that gives anyone joy, but we are experiencing turbulent times that necessitate deep - almost unthinkable - cuts to public services," he said in a statement Friday. "I will work hard in the coming weeks to reach an agreement that will allow us to avoid deeper and more disruptive reductions."]

Park Closures to Meet 2011/12-2012/13 General Fund Reductions

Map by Lauren Sommer at KQEDAnderson Marsh SHP
Annadel SP
Antelope Valley Indian Museum
Austin Creek SRA
Bale Grist Mill SHP
Benbow Lake SRA
Benicia Capitol SHP
Benicia SRA
Bidwell Mansion SHP
Bothe-Napa Valley SP
Brannan Island SRA
California Mining & Mineral Museum
Candlestick Point SRA
Castle Crags SP
Castle Rock SP
China Camp SP
Colusa-Sacramento River SRA
Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP
Fort Humboldt SHP
Fort Tejon SHP
Garrapata SP
George J. Hatfield SRA
Governor's Mansion SHP
Gray Whale Cove SB
Greenwood  SB
Grizzly Creek Redwoods SP
Hendy Woods SP
Henry W. Coe SP
Jack London SHP
Jug Handle SNR
Leland Stanford Mansion SHP
Limekiln SP
Los Encinos SHP
Malakoff Diggins SHP
Manchester SP
McConnell SRA
McGrath SB
Mono Lake Tufa SNR
Morro Strand SB
Moss Landing SB
Olompali SHP
Palomar Mountain SP
Petaluma Adobe SHP
Picacho SR
Pio Pico SHP
Plumas-Eureka SP
Point Cabrillo Light Station
Portola Redwoods SP
Providence Mountains SRA
Railtown 1897 SHP
Russian Gulch SP
Saddleback Butte SP
Salton Sea SRA
Samuel P. Taylor SP
San Pasqual Battlefield SHP
Santa Cruz Mission SHP
Santa Susana Pass SHP
Shasta SHP
South Yuba River SP
Standish-Hickey SRA
Sugarloaf Ridge SP
Tomales Bay SP
Tule Elk SNR
Turlock Lake SRA
Twin Lakes SB
Weaverville Joss House SHP
Westport-Union Landing SB
William B. Ide Adobe SHP
Woodson Bridge SRA
Zmudowski SB

Total Park Closures:  70

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