Only in California

On Tuesday (October 4) Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a Republican bill allowing cities or counties to operate state parks that are threatened with closure but signed a similar Democratic one allowing nonprofits to help with some park operations.

SB356 by Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, would have mandated that the Department of Parks and Recreation give local jurisdictions the option of temporarily taking over state parks facing closures after lawmakers cut $33 million from the department’ budget in March, the Associated Press reported.

Seventy of the state’s 278 parks, beaches, and historic sites are set to close by next July because of the budget cuts.

Gov. Brown, a Democrat, said in his veto message the bill was unnecessary and duplicative because the California Department of Parks and Recreation already has signed contracts with cities and counties willing to operate parks within their jurisdictions.

Blakeslee’s bill was the second Republican-sponsored bill vetoed by Brown relating to the closure of state parks. Brown vetoed SB386 by Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, which would have required the state department to post a 30-day notice of park closures on its website and answer inquiries from anyone interested in operating the park.

“Protecting in statute a local government’s ability to adopt a threatened park will help put an end to these sorts of political ploys,” Blakeslee said. “I am disappointed that Gov. Brown feels differently.”

Brown said in his veto message regarding Harman’s bill that Harman was one of the GOP lawmakers blocking his proposal to call a special election allowing voters to decide on extending several temporary tax hikes, which would have provided the funds to keep parks open.

Salton Sea State Recreation Area is one of the 70 state parks slated for closure in California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now that’s reassuring! Partisan politics, California style, trumps the state’s management (many would argue mismanagement) of its natural resources for the recreational enjoyment of its citizens.

Brown did sign AB42 by Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman of San Rafael, allowing nonprofits to enter operating agreements with state parks facing closure.

Huffman said his bill won’t be able to save all the parks facing closures but is a creative solution to protecting and providing access to parks.

To his credit Gov. Jerry Brown did sign AB 42 on Tuesday afternoon  creating an official pathway for “qualified nonprofits” to take over managing the 70 state parks slated to close by July 1, 2012.

That list includes Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen. Even before the bill became a law, the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association was already developing a proposal to run the park and museum dedicated to the Valley’s most famous writer, reported the Index-Tribune.

“We are extremely relieved that AB42 was signed,” said Elisa Stancil, vice president of the association, who with her board has spent countless hours developing a workable business plan for the park.

“Those are big tourism dollars,” she said. “The association must first get the state’s approval to manage the park.

End of the day at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park looking east toward the Salton Sea. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bill requires the association to sign an operating agreement with the Department of Parks and Recreation promising to protect and maintain the park, as well, and the Department of Parks and Recreation would be required to check in with the legislature on a biennial basis on the status of those agreements.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen Nevada County businesses have collected thousands of dollars in donations from customers who want to keep their beloved South Yuba River State Park and Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park open, The Union reports.


Worth Pondering…

The nation behaves well when it treats the natural resources as assets, which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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