In an effort to narrow the massive California state deficit, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed, among other cuts, the closure of 220 of the 279 state parks and beaches to save about $213 million over the next two years. The state's famed park system attracts nearly 80 million visitors a year.
Parks on the chopping block include Point Lobos near Carmel; Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay; Bodie State Historic Park, one of the best-preserved Old West ghost towns; Anza-Borrego Desert State Park; Will Rogers' Southern California ranch; the Governor's Mansion in Sacramento; Big Basin Redwoods, the oldest state park; and Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to the world's tallest tree.
The 59 parks that will remain open are said to be the only ones that generate more revenue than they cost to operate. These include Old Town San Diego, William Randolph Hearst's Castle, and many popular San Diego County beach campgrounds. Opponents of the plan, however, argue that this analysis is incomplete and short-sighted, not considering the effects of job loss and tax revenue loss from businesses near the parks.
"State parks draw tourism to California," State Parks Foundation president Elizabeth Goldstein told the Associated Press. "This proposal makes the budget situation worse." The foundation estimates the state gets a $2.35 return for every dollar it spends on parks.
A spokesman at the state parks department called it a "worst-case scenario," and the governor’s office has said that Schwarzenegger is willing to listen to "creative ways" to rescue parks, including targeted fees.
Away.com's California Parks and Outdoors Guide has lots more information about travel to the state's parks and other great recreation areas.
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