Chambers of commerce representing businesses throughout Riverside County today joined other organizations across the state in urging Gov. Jerry Brown not to go forward with plans to shut down 61 parks –including the Salton Sea State Recreation Area — as part of a strategy to pare down the state’s $16 billion deficit.
The Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce, Murrieta Chamber of Commerce, Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, Palm Springs Desert Resort Communities Convention and Visitors Authority and Wildomar Chamber of Commerce were among 18 groups that appealed to the governor to back off the closure plan, which was formulated during last year’s budget cycle.
“State parks provide a clear economic benefit. That is why so many chambers of commerce and business groups are coming to their defense,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation. ”We understand that the governor is cutting many line items in the budget, but the cuts to our state parks are counterproductive to the overall economy and to the more than 100-year commitment to preserving these priceless public assets.”
“In the face of closures, many communities are putting new, creative ideas forward to give their parks a reprieve — some that will last 12 months, some that will last a little longer. That creativity and innovation will continue, but can never substitute for a serious, sustainable funding commitment to our state parks,” Goldstein added.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Beginning July 1, the California Department of Parks and Recreation intends to padlock 70 state-run recreational grounds and museums.
Private sponsors have agreed to assist in operating mine of the facilities, however, tokeep them open for the duration of the year, according to the agency. The remaining facilities would be closed, netting around $22 million in savings to the state.
“We regret closing any park,” Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, said earlier this year. ”But with the proposed budget reductions over the two-year period, we can no longer afford to operate all parks within the system.”
According to the “Closing Parks Is Bad for Business Campaign,” state parks generate more than $6 billion in economic activity, with more than 65 million visits to parks made annually and visitors spending an average $42 on items connected with their visit.
More information on the campaign is available at: http://savestateparks.org/badforbusiness.