State Parks Bills Advance to Governor's Desk

The California State Assembly approved two bills late Thursday — one authored by Jared Huffman — that will help address funding and management problems that have plagued state parks the past several years.

Two bills were approved Thursday in the California State Assembly that will help address funding and management problems that have plagued California state parks over the past several years. Both bills proceed to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for his consideration.

State Parks has made deals with nonprofits and government agencies to keep 42 parks open, but 20 more are threatened with permanent closure, according to a story in the Bay Citizen.

In San Rafael, the nonprofit Friends of China Camp recently became the operators of China Camp State Park. Danita Rodriguez, the state parks superintendent for the Marin district, told Patch things are going well so far now that the group is handling everything from electric bills to housekeeping supplies to day permits.

in Novato is only open weekends and hasn't had a full-time ranger or maintenance worker in more than six years. Park maintenance has been done by maintenance staff brought in from other parks, and rangers only come in to cover special events such as Olompali's annual Heritage Day and Summertime Bat Night. The 700-acre property on the eastern slope of Mount Burdell is a culturally significant site in local Native American history and the early formation of the state of California.

The first bill approved Thursday, Assembly Bill 1589, authored by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), requires the Department of Parks & Recreation to develop a prioritized action plan for generating revenues and collecting unpaid user fees at state parks, and calls for accurate and transparent accounting of all state park funds. Additionally, it allows taxpayers to redirect portions of their tax refunds to the California State Parks Protection Fund in exchange for an annual state park day-use access pass.  

The second bill, AB 1478, coauthored by Huffman, implements several additional measures in response to the recently-discovered funds that were stashed away by State Parks officials.  The measures in AB 1478 include: a two-year moratorium on future state park closures, matching funds for park donors and local operating agreements, and additional funding towards audits and investigations of the management crisis at California State Parks.

“Since news of the state parks scandal broke last month, I have been working with legislative leaders and the Brown Administration on the changes needed to restore public trust and confidence in California State Parks’ management and operations,” said Huffman. “These two bills help implement these changes that will bring much-needed transparency, accountability, and a serious ‘reset’ to an agency that desperately needs it.”

“The Governor has indicated that these newly disclosed park funds should be used for the purposes for which they were intended - to support state parks,” said Huffman. “While we have a lot more work to do to restore public trust and confidence, ensuring that these park funds go to support parks at risk of closure, and to bolster the generosity of the donors and nonprofits who have stepped up in a big way is an essential first step.”

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