Wednesday, June 29, 2011

California state parks that will be history ...

California is about to lose nearly one quarter of our state parks. In order to help balance the budget, the Department of Parks and Recreation has released a list of 70 (out of 278) that will be shut down beginning in September. Naturally this also means that park staff will lose their jobs and nearby businesses will lose their customers.

How could this nightmare be happening in the midst of high unemployment and our economic doldrums? The state has been driven to this because many Californians refuse to pay taxes for government services, even the ones we like. Starting in the late 70's we passed a series of measures that make it impossible for even quite large majorities of legislators to pass budgets. It takes a 2/3s vote to pass a budget or raise revenue. Consequently, no-taxes-ever-but-give-me-mine Republicans can block everything. Unless we restore majority rule in Sacramento, we can kiss our quality of life in California goodbye. Other states: be warned.

Probably losing the parks isn't the most important damage currently being done by greedy obstructionists: we need roads, bridges, state universities and local schools even more. But shutting down parks is a very visible sign of California's decline. Since I enjoy the parks, I am going to try to chronicle this madness a bit.

big cat greets visitors!.jpg
Come September, this stuffed mountain lion will no longer greet visitors at the Castle Crags State Park entrance kiosk. Castle Crags is just off I-5 in the far north of the state, on the way to Oregon.

castle crags sign.jpg
It's a big place, offering camping, fishing in the Sacramento River, and views of Mt. Shasta and surroundings.

shasta w blue sky.jpg
There's northern California's dominating mountain.

And the park provides trail access to its signature feature: the dominating granite crags.
crags-close and pointy!.jpg
These rock formations are unusual for being so rugged at a relatively low altitude. And, thanks to the park, a short trail enables a moderately ambitious hiker to scramble about among them only a little more than 2.4 miles from a trail head.

moon over crags vertical.jpg
I was able to take them in early in the morning after a brisk uphill run.

Of course the crags will survive the park closure. But getting to them will be a lot harder. Ambitious hikers will have to start several miles further away and use unmaintained trails.

crags trail crosses PCT.jpg
The area is close by the Pacific Crest Trail -- but shouldn't the state be able to make it just a little easier for us to appreciate such magnificence without requiring us to be marathon hikers?

The California State Parks Foundation is leading the charge against park closures. Nobody knows whether citizens will be able to block or modify the closure plan. Every California institution is scrambling for its bit of a too-small pie. Updates will follow.


Rain Trueax said...

Arizona faced this problem also and the people fought to bring the parks back that they wanted. I hope that happens in California. It is a tough time with the attitude many have toward privatizing everything. They really don't understand what is at risk and by the time they do, the rich will have it all

Anonymous said...

Excuse me - high taxes are driving people
and businesses out of this State right and left .
Please get real . Alsp , State currently pays out over 9 BILLION
dollars a year for services to illegal aliens and their children. We have something like 6 million
illegals in this State and their kids who
really couldn't care less about our State
Parks . Many of them are currently out of work
and on welfare .
I think having 9 billion dollars more in
taxes - would go
a long way towards helping our State Parks
don't you think ?

Less population would also help the environment,
and the state of our roads , schools, etc. etc.