Four Marin State Parks Would Be Closed Under Budget Proposal

Revised budget released Monday maintains list of 70 park closures across state.

Despite a revised state budget presented by Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday that saw increased tax revenues, a plan to close 70 state parks -- including four in Marin -- remains on the table.

On Friday, the  announced the closure of 70 parks in an effort to save $33 million over the next two years, which was cut from the state parks in the 2011-12 fiscal year budget.

The state would close 70 of its 278 parks on July 1, 2012 -- including four in Marin County and 19 others in the Bay Area. In Marin, , Samuel P. Taylor, Tomales Bay and state parks would be closed. 

See the full interactive map of state parks on the list here.

Despite several close calls, it would be the first time in the parks department's 100-year history, including during the Great Depression, that the parks have been closed because of budget concerns.

"Although park closures have been threatened before, this constitutes the first time in the 100 year history of California state parks that a serious, deliberate effort has been made to significantly reduce the state parks system," said California State Parks Foundation President Elizabeth Goldstein.

Although Gov. Brown announced a surplus in tax revenue collected, the state parks closures remain part of the extensive cuts passed by the Legislature in March. 

During a televised conference yesterday morning, Brown revealed that California earned $6.6 billion more in tax revenue over the next 13 months, putting the deficit to $9.6 billion through June 30, 2012.  

As part of the revised budget, the income tax extension that Brown hopes to seek on the ballot would be decreased by a year. Additionally, school funding would be increased under the revised proposed budget. 

The state park closure list remains based on the March budget, not on today's revision, but the revision did not include any plans to change those closures. But what exactly closure means remains to be seen.

The parks would be placed in caretaker status, the state parks department announced on Friday, which would mean gates would be closed and people would not be allowed to enter. But, in parks like China Camp and Samuel P. Taylor, where main roads run through the state grounds, how the public would be kept out remains unclear. (.)

Additionally, with increases in crime in some open space areas, , how those policing issues will be addressed also remains a question.

State Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, has vowed to help keep state parks in the North Bay open.

The lawmaker said in a recent statement that the park closures were inevitable, but that he would work to allow nonprofits to take over park operations in appropriate situations.

"Until we stabilize the state's budget situation and find a better long-term funding source for parks, I'm afraid that our current functional park closures will continue," he added.

Huffman also said he would work to find nonprofit partnerships that would allow those organizations to operate the parks where it makes sense. In Marin, different open space groups could step in.

The California State Parks department said that despite the many parks scheduled to shut down unless alternate plans are made, 92 percent of attendance and 94 percent of current revenue levels will be retained.

The California State Parks Foundation blasted the list, though, pointing out that it includes 40 percent of all State Historic Parks.    

Historical treasures such as Jack London State Historic Park and  would lose their state funding.

Jack London park features a museum dedicated to the iconic writer that is curated out of what served as his home from 1905 to 1916. London and his wife are both buried at the park, and visitors can walk to a dam, lake and bathhouse built by the author.

Olompali is a sacred site for both Native Americans and hippies from the Haight-Ashbury days. Evidence of the presence of the Coast Miwok tribe, called the Southern People (Olompali), dates to 6,000 B.C. The tribe lived here until the 1850s and their descendants are still a recognized and organized group in the North Bay area. In the late 1960s, the Olompali land was privately owned and became a cultural gathering spot and commune. The Grateful Dead played here regularly.

"The message to our children and grandchildren is that we can't save their natural and historic legacy," foundation president Elizabeth Goldstein said in a statement. "They can no longer expect to have access to a public trust source that should, by all rights, be theirs."

Bay City News contributed to this report.


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