The latest cuts proposed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger could close up to 220 state parks. The proposal would close the parks to save money through June 20, 2010 and then save even more money if they keep them closed another year.
The closures would include even Humboldt Redwoods State Park, where the world's tallest tree keeps growing, Bodie State Historic Park, Big Basin Redwoods and Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe. Even if they negotiate the budget cuts, some parks will most likely be closed.
California is the 6th largest economy in the world and this cut is $70 million dollars. That's not much in the scope of the state budget but it impacts everyone who visits the state and those who like to get away from their own California city.
The California State Park system brings in 80 million visitors. The State Parks Foundation says that the state gets $2.35 back on every dollar it spends on the state parks. The Republicans in the legislature support this cut but it seems like another boneheaded move to me when you consider how many other businesses and people this will impact throughout the state. I have to wonder what the bigger impact on the economy would be. Take just the 2,000 park jobs lost and the subsequent drain on public support systems. Take all the tourists that won't be traveling in those areas and putting money into motels, gas stations, stores and all kinds of other little independent tourist shops and attractions. What about all those businesses and their employees? No one is going to drive into the boonies to buy a souvenir from a mom and pop shop about a place they couldn't visit. Wouldn't those losses just add to the state's problems? If regular state resident hikers in the state lose their favorite spots, they won't need to buy gear and shoes as often. They won't buy as much gas or need as much maintenance on their vehicles. Everything is interconnected in so many ways and I wonder when people will wake up to that.
I have been thinking about some of those great parks in California and how I wanted to take a trip there again. Now I either need to visit them all this summer or I may not be able to at all for who knows how long. I can see it now. If they are closed long enough, people will forget about them and then they'll be sold off to oil and mining companies.
Or since they can't pay anyone to take the fee money, can we just drive on through the signs and gates? Some of these areas, like a mountain or beach, will be pretty hard to close up. People will use them anyway and there won't be any income from it.
What do you think about this from a traveler or RVer point of view? Is it just a way of getting the attention of the voters who didn't pass what the government wanted? Will it affect any of your plans to visit California?