McGrath State Beach, a popular coastal park near Ventura Harbor that welcomes 300,000 visitors a year, is facing financial troubles and the prospect of closure after Labor Day, joining the long list of public parks in dire need of funding.
McGrath must find a way to cover the $500,000 cost of repairing an aging sewer line in order to stay open, and the park has had some trouble finding the money. The city of Oxnard and the state have pledged $150,000, and $250,000 in funds from the federal government are to be had if that sum is matched by other sources…but that still leaves $100,000. Enter Coca-Cola, the sponsor of the “America’s Favorite Park” contest, and McGrath’s potential savior. The contest includes a number of struggling parks from across the nation, with rankings determined by online votes. Oak Park in North Dakota currently leads with nearly 2.7 million votes, and McGrath is currently in the 6th place, with 302,000 votes. With the first-place reward at $100,000, supporters of McGrath have a definite incentive to vote online, as garnering this prize would mean keeping open the beloved park. But could the public-private partnership offered by Coca-Cola’s funding endanger future public interests? And is there danger in turning California's most precious beaches, lakes and forests over to private entrepreneurs?
Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks