Be Our Guest: The Next Story about CA State Parks
July 8, 2013
Join us in welcoming Christine Sculati to our blog as she provides insight on the next story about State Parks…
A little over one year ago dozens of California State Parks hovered on the brink of closure due to severe budget cuts. Today, not only are those parks open but many of those struggling parks are now more inviting than ever before.
How long can this revival last? And what happened to all of those parks that nearly closed?
Back in November 2011, members and friends of the Bay Area Open Space Council filled the Tamalpais Room at the David Brower Center in Berkeley to talk about the budget crisis roiling the California State Parks system. I was there. Were you?
We learned that the California state park system had reached a breaking point, and, in response California State Parks drew up a list of 70 parks to close by July 1, 2012. Parks slated for closure in the Bay Area included historic parks like Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma County to wilderness parks like Henry Coe in the South Bay.
Yet, despite how grim everything looked that day, the most promising news was that people love their parks and were rising up and working together to fight the closures and patch together short-term solutions.
Communities formed unprecedented partnerships and raised money to keep park gates open and services running.
Then a series of reports of financial mismanagement in the Department of Parks and Recreation shook the public trust in summer 2012. California State Parks Foundation president Elizabeth Goldstein said this felt like a “punch in the stomach.” Her foundation and other park advocates continued to press on calling for the legislature to direct millions in newly discovered park funds back to the threatened parks.
They succeeded. Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill in September 2012 that put a two-year moratorium on closing state parks and directed $20 million in surplus funds to help the parks that were slated for closure. Assembly Bill 1478 guarantees that parks will stay open through June 2014 and appropriated $10 million to be used to match private funds that nonprofits raise for parks under donor and operating agreements.
Meanwhile, what is it like for the dozens of community groups and public agencies that are now running or raising funds for parks?
This week the Bay Area Open Space Council blog is running a three-part series to explore these questions. I hope you will join me as I set out to take a pulse on where we are now and how the people and the parks tangled up in the crisis have fared. We will check in with park advocates, working on the ground and around the Bay. While we won’t visit every park affected by the crisis, we will learn about many in the region who are working under a new paradigm. What have they learned along the way?
Join us this week as we check in with park experts and nonprofits around the Bay to answer questions like:
- What happened to the nonprofits that raised thousands of dollars to keep parks open and dealt with the crushing news about financial management in the Parks Department last summer?
- How is the first-ever executive director at Jack London State Historic Park doing in a park where there is now no state presence?
- Do people notice the National Park Service in two Marin state parks?
- What is it like to be a state park ranger in a park operated by a county agency?
Christine Sculati is a Berkeley-based development consultant and writer for nonprofits in the Bay Area. The California state parks crisis has been on her mind since closures were announced in May of 2011. She then realized that the whole system had been under siege due to under-funding for many years. She is inspired by the tremendous amount of dedication by volunteers around the state to help the parks and wants to do her part by elevating their voices on her blog and by writing for BayNature.org. She is committed to protecting parks and open spaces because of the benefits these places bring to society and the health of ecosystems. When she is not working, she likes to spend as much time as possible in the outdoors, experiencing nature, wilderness and adventure with her husband and friends. She also volunteers for a Bay Area puma study by checking wildlife cameras in a remote Marin watershed.