65 California state parks will remain open — temporarily

Community members gather signatures in support of state parks during an event on August 28, 2009.
Community members gather signatures in support of state parks during an event on August 28, 2009.
Michael "Mike" L. Baird/Flickr Creative Commons

With a busy Fourth of July week looming, California parks officials on Thursday announced that 65 of the 70 state parks once slated to be closed due to budget cuts will remain open at least temporarily after a closure deadline that had been set for Sunday.

The move came after the state reached agreements with nonprofits, local governments and others regarding 40 of the parks, and deals were in the works for 25 more, the California Department of Parks and Recreation said.

The state had issued a list of 70 parks — nearly a quarter of its entire system — that it intended to close to bridge a $22 million budget deficit, but will now only close five.

Ruth Coleman, director of the state parks system, said the parks crisis has been difficult, but she was buoyed by the response from people who are passionate about the sites.

"We have re-energized the people who love parks, and they are stepping up and contributing to parks in all sorts of ways," Coleman said during a conference call with reporters.

Thursday's announcement was made after Gov. Jerry Brown partially vetoed a state parks funding bill, allocating $10 million in new funds rather than the $41 million that had been approved by the Legislature.

Officials say the new funds will help buy time to finalize deals for about 25 of the once-doomed parks.

The budget also gives the parks department $13 million in bond funds that can be used for projects meant to increase revenue at the parks to help make more money for the state.

Coleman said the money will fund better fee machines that take credit and debit cards. The state also is looking at making more cabins or alternative camping sites available as well.

"We're grateful for the Legislature's help," said John Laird, California's secretary for natural resources. "It will give us a path to keep most, if not all, of the parks open."

The parks still set to close on Sunday are Benicia State Recreation Area, the California Mining and Mineral Museum, Gray Whale Cove State Beach, Providence Mountains State Recreation Area and Zmudowski State Beach.

Coleman said the department will continues working to find deals to keep all of the parks open.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.