Rally in Sacramento Against Proposed Closure of State Parks

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A few hundred people rallied on the steps of the state capitol Monday to protest Governor Schwarzenegger's plan to close 48 state parks and reduce lifeguards at 16 state beaches. The governor says the closures would cut $13 million from the state's $16 billion deficit. KPCC's Julie Small says that's not sitting well with California's nature lovers.

Julie Small: Framed by two young women holding surf boards, Assembly Democrat John Laird of scenic Santa Cruz panned the Governor's plan.

John Laird: Some people can afford to go to rich resorts in California, and those that can't depend on our state parks for their access to beaches and forests and places of recreation. And we have to have this access issue addressed in this budget, and addressed clearly. [crowd cheering]

Small: Tracy Verardo Torres with the California State Parks Foundation says the Governor's plan won't actually save $13 million.

Traci Verardo Torres: Really what it does is it pushes the economic displacement down to local communities that really rely on tourism from their state parks. That's not factored into the equation here.

Small: Aaron McLear with the governor's office defends the plan. He says Schwarzenegger doesn't want to close parks...

Aaron McLear: He's a big proponent of state parks, but the situation is what it is. And that is that we have a lot less money coming in than we have going out. It's as simple as that. And the governor believes that the most prudent way to solve that problem is to cut across the board, including to parks.

Small: Lucinda Mittleman, a docent at Topanga Canyon State Park, calls that reasoning...

Lucinda Mittleman: Nuts, it's just nuts. To me, the state parks thread a web throughout California that's just the heart and soul of California.

Small: She says she can't imagine closing a single park, let alone Topanga Canyon State Park, which at 13,000 acres is the largest urban wild land in the world.