California's Parks and Rec Faces Budget Crisis

Somewhere, Ron Swanson is smiling.

California's Department of Parks and Recreation needs to cut $22 million in the fiscal year 2012/2013. So to plug this budget shortfall, the Golden State is closing some of its state parks. There are currently 278 state parks in California. But after July 1, 2012, 70 of them will no longer be financed by the state. Ruth Coleman, director of California's state parks system, outlines the doomsday scenario:

Our expectation in most cases is that we will have closed the bathrooms and locked them, closed any buildings and locked them, removed trash cans, so all services will be removed. We will have staff that drive periodically. But there won't be any services. So if you go into that park, you're in essence doing it at your own risk.

However, voters are opposed to raising taxes. In 2010, Californians rejected Proposition 21, which would have increased license fees on vehicles by $18. This would have raised $500 million that could have only been spent on parks and wildlife conservation in California. Yet the editorial boards of the Los Angeles Times and the San Franciso Chronicle (hardly bastions of fiscal conservatism) both criticized the measure. The Times criticized using the proposed revenues for parks, rather than health care or schools, while the Chronicle was worried that the fee "hits low-income drivers harder than others." In the end, Prop 21 lost by 14 points, 57-43 percent.

Of course, these budgetary problems could be avoided if the state parks were operated by private owners. Owners could charge visitors a reasonable price to enjoy the parks, which would incentivize conservation and quality service. Meanwhile, taxpayers would not be coerced to pay for something they do not want to fund, as seen by their rejection of Prop 21.

Me on why we should privatize America's national parks. Reason on Ron Swanson. Reason.tv on Prop 21.

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  • Yogi Bear||

    So if you go into that park, you're in essence doing it at your own risk.

    Hey Boo Boo, it looks like we'll be able to steal more pic-a-nick baskets!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    So if you go into that park, you're in essence doing it at your own risk.

    Going into the woods without government assistance? Mother of God.

  • Sparky||

    No GAMBOL LOCKDOWN! Let the White Indians roam free.

  • Tman||

    Yeah, I don't get this.

    Was the CP&R the only thing between you and a fatal National Park attack?

    Are the bears suddenly getting released to hunt people?

    Are the trees now going to rise up like in Lord of the Rings and start trashing people like helpless Orcs?

    Cause that'd be cool.

  • Tonio||

    Cali state parks not the same as National Parks.

  • CE||

    Mountain lions are the danger out here, not bears. Mountain lions, falling trees, rattlesnakes and flash floods.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    SOMALIA!!!!!

  • o3||

    hey yogi, ck all those new weed grows

  • Commentariat GOP Shill||

    Our expectation in most cases is that we will have closed the bathrooms and locked them

    Oh great. There goes my dating life.

    I wonder what STEVE SMITH thinks about all this?

  • STEVE SMITH||

    So if you go into that park, you're in essence doing it at your own risk.

    STEVE SMITH DO IT AT HIKER'S RISK! STEVE SMITH RAPE MORE HIKERS NOW!

  • A Serious Man||

    California: where the liberal argument that we can finance all our wildest dreams with high taxes on everything collides with reality.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Yep. Me and the missus are packing our bags and heading to Indianapolis in a few months. The California experiment has failed.

  • ||

    Dude, what the fuck? Who are we gonna go drinking with in Long Beach now?

  • WTF||

    Don't be the last rat off of that sinking ship.

  • ||

    But I love it here. Beautiful climate. Wonderful people. (I live in the central valley)

    Dammit, this place is worth saving. And I'm gonna start soon by running for local office.

  • A Serious Man||

    Yeah, no matter how bad it gets I wouldn't want to leave Southern California either. In fact that's probably why this state can keep on the path it's been on: people will put up with a pleathora of crap from Sacramento just to keep enjoying the perfect weather and geography.

  • ||

    You're a serious and smart man.

  • Realist||

    Yes, most people are stupid fucks.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    We'll come back often to visit relatives, and drink with libertarians.

  • ||

    Well, we'll be down one day next week. As soon as I know when, I'll email you so we can all get together again.

    And the rest of you LA reasonoids...get out and drink with us.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Groovy.

  • juris imprudent||

    You need to get a little further south to be in my drinking region.

  • ||

    How far south? Our trip is gonna last more than one night.

  • Commentariat GOP Shill||

    Welcome to the Midwest. I got lots of love for Indy.

    sloopy, Urban Meyer needs you. Move now.

  • ||

    Moving from Cali to Indianapolis??

    BwaHaHaHaHa!

  • Rev. Blue Moon||

    The same reason I wouldn't blame anyone who left Greece for, say, Eastern Europe.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I've got family there, and the rapidly declining health of my parents was a factor. Not the ideal place to land, but I'm okay with the decision.

  • ||

    Why a tax on cars? Why not a tax on hiking boots, tents, granola and bug spray?

  • WTF||

    Because cars are bad things, and those other things are good things used by the right people.

  • ||

    Wrong answer. The correct CA response would be: Yes, and yes.

  • sarcasmic||

    Citizens! In all times, two political systems have been in existence, and each may be maintained by good reasons. According to one of them, Government ought to do much, but then it ought to take much. According to the other, this two-fold activity ought to be little felt. We have to choose between these two systems. But as regards the third system, which partakes of both the others, and which consists in exacting everything from Government, without giving it anything, it is chimerical, absurd, childish, contradictory, and dangerous. Those who parade it, for the sake of the pleasure of accusing all governments of weakness, and thus exposing them to your attacks, are only flattering and deceiving you, while they are deceiving themselves.
    http://bastiat.org/en/government.html
  • LOL||

    California needs a Leslie Knope

  • ||

    the state has plenty of money, it simply chooses to spend it on the wrong things.

    California is a one party state, and as such, one party rule results in the corrupt and fucked situation California's find themselves in.

    Want to keep parks open? Quit dropping 2 billion plus to educate the children of illegals.

  • ||

    Another thing... California parks in general, including State Parks, tend to have rules that make them unattractive to many people.

    Dogs are generally not allowed on trails, for example. Many hikers have dogs. Some State Parks have beautiful trails -- but hikers with dogs would rather go to other nearby areas like National Forests.

    Not only is California's fiscal management wrong, it does a pretty poor job of marketing the parks to people who would pay to use them.

  • ||

    Less people makes the parks even more enticing.

  • ||

    A variant on "New York is so crowded, nobody goes there any more!"

  • ||

    i think demand for parks is inelastic.

    So, yeah, entice away, but it's not gonna bring in more campground fees.

  • Joe M||

    Of course, these budgetary problems could be avoided if the state parks were operated by private owners. Owners could charge visitors a reasonable price to enjoy the parks, which would incentivize conservation and quality service.

    But but! Then poor people wouldn't be able to afford going to the parks!

  • Realist||

    "There are currently 278 state parks in California. But after July 1, 2012, 70 of them will no longer be financed by the state."
    None of them should be state financed. They should be user financed.

  • ||

    ""They should be user financed.""

    I'm not opposed, but how much will one pay to go to a park?

    My guess is that state laws will still require private companies to have the same services. The only difference is that the private companies will close the parks faster than the state.

  • Realist||

    "I'm not opposed, but how much will one pay to go to a park?"
    I don't care....if not enough are willing to pay what it takes...then close the park.

  • Tonio||

    Meanwhile, taxpayers would not be coerced to pay for something they do not want to fund, as seen by their rejection of Prop 21.

    In all fairness, they didn't specifically reject public funding of state parks; they rejected doing so by increasing vehicle licensing fees. Vehicle licensing fees are generally unpopular. Also, as you mentioned they may have rejected this measure because it didn't allow this revenue to be raided "for the children" or whatever.

  • juris imprudent||

    Of course, these budgetary problems could be avoided if...

    Cali Politician: What kind of crazy talk is that?

  • ||

    $500 million that could have only been spent on parks and wildlife conservation

    Oh?

    The Times criticized using the proposed revenues for parks, rather than health care or schools

    See, they don't even have the money yet, and people already want to spend it on other stuff.

    also

    taxpayers would not be coerced to pay for something they do not want to fund

    Yeah, right.

  • ||

    ""Our expectation in most cases is that we will have closed the bathrooms and locked them, closed any buildings and locked them, removed trash cans, so all services will be removed. We will have staff that drive periodically. But there won't be any services. So if you go into that park, you're in essence doing it at your own risk.""

    Not a problem, but don't have some jackass park ranger arrest me for a nature call.

  • wayne||

    "Our expectation in most cases is that we will have closed the bathrooms and locked them, closed any buildings and locked them, removed trash cans, so all services will be removed. We will have staff that drive periodically. But there won't be any services. So if you go into that park, you're in essence doing it at your own risk."

    Honestly, that is the sort of park I prefer.

    No state busybodies "interpreting" the park for you and telling you where you can't go, and what you can't do, and to top it off it costs less!

  • Suki||

    "Justice" is not spelled "crisis".

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    I recall thinking during one of California's previous budget crises that it was kind of stupid to save money by closing state parks when in Florida, at least, state parks have fees that actually raise revenue.

    Then I found out that California state parks are free and that every time anyone has suggested charging a fee holy hell has been raise.

    It's sort of like the silliness that comes up every time the Golden Gate bridge authority proposes charging a toll for pedestrians and cyclists (even a token one like $1) it gets shouted down.

    Seriously, the rest of the world is full of people that want government goodies and don't want to pay for it but California seems to have raised it to an art form.

  • ||

    If we don't fund the state parks then the state parks will vanish. All that will be left is trees and creeks and woodsy like areas and animals and stuff. Sigh.

  • ||

    Oh. I see. You want to privatize what taxpayers already pay for, so its like double dipping? Then you exclude those in most need of public parks because they cannot afford entrance/access fees? Public parks are for the people. #SaveOurParks

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