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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Politics and Issues

Our State Parks are in peril
Prop 21 would establish dedicated and reliable funding

August 2010

Jerry Meral, Board of Directors
National Wildlife Federation

California’s 278 state parks and beaches comprise 1.5 million acres of outdoor space, offering vital protection to unique ecosystems and recreation areas. Nearly a third of California’s coast has been preserved in its native state because of the state’s 64 state beaches. Home to more than 160 rare, threatened, and endangered species, state parks are priceless public assets and vital legacies for our children and grandchildren.

Unfortunately, our State Parks are in peril. Chronic underfunding has starved State Parks for decades. Twice in the past two years, state parks were on the brink of being shut down. Only last-minute budget reprieves kept them open. California’s parks are becoming less available to the public and are at serious risk of irreversible damage.

Chronic underfunding has forced state parks to amass more than $1 billion in needed maintenance and repairs. Roofs and sewage systems leak, restrooms are not cleaned regularly, bridges have collapsed, trails are washed out, campgrounds and visitor centers are shuttered, and buildings and structures throughout the system are badly deteriorated. Thousands of scenic acres are closed to the public because of reductions in park rangers, and crime has more than doubled. Destruction and vandalism of the parks themselves has grown fourfold, and swimmers are often unprotected because of decreases in lifeguards. The conditions in California’s state parks are so bad that the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed California state parks on its 2010 list of the 11 most endangered historic places. Native plants and animals are seriously threatened by invasive species, and little is being done about it.

Locally, the lifeguard fund is so low in Santa Cruz County that continuous cuts to staff are likely. At Monterey State Historic Park the Custom House museum, Pacific House museum, and the Robert Louis Stevenson house were forced to close for six months while the adobe homes continue to be closed on a regular basis.

Similar maintenance problems face the hundreds of thousands of acres managed for wildlife protection by the California Department of Fish and Game. These lands, most of which were acquired to protect rare or endangered species, suffer from a lack of attention by qualified staff. They are threatened with invasive plant species, trespass, poaching, and illegal collection of plants and animals.

Prop. 21, on the November 2 ballot, will create the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund. Prop. 21 will establish a dedicated and reliable funding stream for state parks and wildlife areas to ensure they can be enjoyed for generations to come. In exchange for free year-round day-use admission to all state parks, Californians will pay an $18 fee as part of the annual vehicle license fee (except for larger commercial vehicles, mobile homes and permanent trailers) to support state parks and wildlife conservation.

Under Prop. 21, approximately $500 million will be generated annually to support state parks and wildlife areas. The trust fund ensures that state parks and wildlife areas will have the funds necessary to begin addressing the maintenance backlog and to ensure these rare natural habitats are protected. Without the funding provided by Prop. 21, we stand to lose the important legacy of our state parks for future generations.

Prop. 21 will ensure state parks and wildlife areas have the long-term, stable and adequate funding needed to remain accessible and maintained for future generations.

We encourage you to learn more about Prop. 21 at