Parks Funding

Government service, as is true of any organizational service, need to adjust to lower revenue and previous allocation choices.

Creating a class of virtually permanent jobs with a higher salary and retirement benefits than offered in the private sector, has done much to limit the ability of government to fund those items which have made California special, such as the state parks system.

Attempting to increase taxes–environmentalist’s default position–to pay for this legislative self-induced funding issue with the parks will probably not get much traction.

The Sacramento Bee reports on the problems.

An excerpt.

“The images won’t appear in any California State Parks brochure.

“MacKerricher State Park: Fifty elementary-school kids arrive for their annual end-of-year camping trip, only to find the drinking water contaminated.

“Mount Tamalpais: A trail near the visitors center greets disabled visitors and families with a 12- to 50-foot sheer drop-off – and no guardrail.

“Hearst Castle: The marble Neptune Pool at California’s most famous state park leaks so much that stalactites have formed in a cavity underneath.

“Look beyond the crashing waves and towering redwoods, and California’s 278 state parks are a tangle of troubles. The nation’s largest state parks system is weighed down by a $1.3 billion maintenance backlog, according to a review of park records by The Sacramento Bee.

“Park visitors already have dealt with abbreviated schedules and services. Now decay and neglect in the parks endanger the environment, artifacts – and even public health, as the students and parents of Skyfish School in Redway recently learned.

“It’s been a real hassle,” said Mark Jensen, a parent and chaperone who had to keep 50 kids from drinking the water at MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg. “There were actually a couple kids who drank some before we could get the word out.”

“Much of the park decay exists because maintenance has been largely ignored for more than a decade amid slim and slimmer state budgets. Buildings and infrastructure, subject to constant exposure and heavy use, just get worse until they fail.

“As a result, the backlog has more than doubled since 2001, when it was estimated at $600 million.

“The operating budget for state parks from state funding and user fees – which pays for day-to-day maintenance, law enforcement and administration – stands at about $330 million this fiscal year. In 2001, it was $314 million. Adjusted for inflation, however, that reflects a 15 percent drop.

“Meanwhile, during those same years, California added 12 parks and 100,000 acres of land to its system.

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to leave the $140 million general fund subsidy intact this year, after he was criticized in 2009 for requiring partial closure of 60 parks and cutbacks systemwide.

“It remains to be seen whether the Legislature will agree to keep the parks budget intact – and status-quo funding will do little to shrink the mountain of untended maintenance.

“Environmental groups think they have a partial solution in the recently qualified November ballot initiative that would levy an $18 annual fee on every California vehicle registration, raising at least $208 million a year. In return, residents with up-to-date registration would have free day use of all state parks.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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