Governor's Budget Would Close 48 State Parks

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Governor Schwarzenegger's budget would close one out of every five state parks to deal with the state's financial troubles. KPCC's Molly Peterson has more on the plan and the reaction.

Molly Peterson: State Parks Director Ruth Coleman says she targeted 48 parks with low visitor counts for "caretaker status." That means the Resources Department would pay to check up on the lands, but not to keep them open.

Ruth Coleman: We felt that if we cut a lot of the parks, we would be having to reduce the public safety coverage so much as to render some of them unsafe. So we felt it better to maintain parks at a safe level that are open rather than compromise safety across the board.

Peterson: In the southland, the cuts would shutter San Simeon, the Salton Sea, Topanga, and Pio Pico parks, among others. Polo players at Will Rogers State Park would lose access to their field. Gail Sevrens of the California State Park Rangers Association says she wonders how the department would prevent trespassing at all the closed sites.

Gail Sevrens: Closed areas can have quite an allure for people.

Peterson: Eleven state beaches in Orange and San Diego counties would lose more than half their seasonal lifeguards. Sevrens calls that another potential risk to public safety. All told, the cuts and closures would yield 136 layoffs and save $17 million next fiscal year. That's maximum pain for minimal gain, contends Elizabeth Goldstein of the California State Parks Foundation.

Elizabeth Goldstein: We think that there've got to be ways to prevent these cuts from taking place in the first place, and that's what we're going to be focused on.

Peterson: The governor's emergency declaration triggers a special legislative session. Lawmakers will have to accept cuts, or raise taxes, or both, within 45 days.