The storm swirling around California’s state parks system has now moved off-road. Why? Because last week, a little more than half of the $54 million in missing state parks money mysteriously showed up in a special fund set aside to manage land designated for off-road vehicle use.
So far, nobody in the state parks department can explain how the money got there, and its director has resigned. But the discovery has caused a flare-up in the long-standing battle between off-roaders and conservationists.
Devotees of the off-road vehicle experience say the money is necessary to maintain trails and enforce conservation guidelines, and without it, off-road areas would deteriorate. Hikers, birdwatchers and others who prefer their wildlife experience sans gas-powered vehicles maintain that ORV users present a threat to pristine parklands and that not enough of the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Fund is being put towards conservation.
Minus the surplus, the OHMV fund, which comes from registration fees, park admission and a portion of the gasoline tax, amounts to about $100 million.
Should some of that money be allocated to other state park departments? Is the off-road community doing enough to maintain stewardship of their parks? Now that the missing millions have been found, will California’s state parks stay open?
Amy Granat, managing director of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association
Karen Schambach, Field Director of California Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)