California News

CA could lose millions over state parks

Friday, September 18, 2009

Part of the governor's plan to balance the budget includes closing as many as 100 state parks, but a leaked memo shows closing them could actually cost the state millions more, than it would save.

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State parks could be getting an unexpected reprieve.

As many as 100 parks could be closed to save $14 million. It is an idea that started in the governor's office as the Legislature tried to balance the budget.

But a state parks department memo leaked to an advocacy group says park closure could open the state to legal liabilities far and above $14 million.

The memo reads that "it is likely state parks could be liable for breach of contract" with the 188 companies providing concessions.

They generated $89 million in sales last year and the memo also says the state could be held liable for injuries and fires even if a park is closed. East Bay Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner is chair of the Natural Resources Committee.

"I would hope the governor didn't know that and now that he is aware of the financial implications, he would reverse that decision," says Skinner.

The parks department says the memo is a standard part of preparing to close the parks. The final list of targeted parks has been delayed; the department says that's because they're trying to close as few as possible and that requires studying a variety of factors, including visitor numbers.

"My office -- we had more faxes, letters, and calls about the closure of state parks than any other issue. It broke our fax machine one night, we got so many constituent responses. Californians love their parks," says Skinner.

"How can you even think of that, and if it's going to cost more to close a park, why not just keep them open?" says South San Francisco resident Keith Briggs.

The Briggs family loves family gathering at Candlestick Point Park.

Jackie Green says the parks help her relax. She said "Do they know that? Are they aware of that? I mean, that is going to backfire."

The list of the parks to be closed is now expected to be out next week and a legislative hearing on the closures is planned for Tuesday.

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