City News Service
The Salton Sea State Recreation Area in southeastern Riverside County is likely to be a casualty of state budget cuts, it was announced Friday.
The 400-square-mile basin is on a list of 70 state parks slated for closure on July 1, 2012 because of an $11 million cut in funding for the 2011- 2012 fiscal year and a $22 million cut for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
“We regret closing any park, but with the proposed budget reductions over the next two years, we can no longer afford to operate all the parks within the system,” said California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman.
California State Parks Foundation President Elizabeth Goldstein called the proposed cuts devastating.
“This generation is on the verge of leaving California’s state park system smaller and in every way diminished for the next generation,” Goldstein said.
“Although park closures have been threatened before, 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. The message to our children and grandchildren is that we can’t save their natural and historic legacy.”
Gov. Jerry Brown said closing parks was not a task that “gives anyone joy” but was a reflection of the “turbulent times that necessitate deep — almost unthinkable — cuts to public services.”
The funding cuts were part of AB 95, a state budget “trailer bill” signed into law by Brown in March in an attempt to reduce the deficit.
Parks would be closed in 36 of the state’s 58 counties, and the closures would represent roughly one-quarter of the state’s park system, which comprises 278 sites, according to Goldstein.
“When the governor first proposed the cut to state parks, we warned that the closures would be devastating, and clearly they will be,” Goldstein said.
“At a time when local communities are struggling to be part of the state’s recovery, this proposal shuts the door to vital part of our economy. Closing these parks is going in the wrong direction.”
Factors considered when decided what parks to close included statewide significance, number of visitors, amount of money that would be saved, ability to be easily closed to public access, level of partnerships and land use requirements.
Voters rejected Proposition 21 in November, which would have raised the state’s vehicle license fee by $18, with the proceeds devoted to the state parks.