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Report: California Parks Will Depend On Philanthropy And Concessions

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The woodlands and hills of the Bolinas Ridge west of Mount Tamalpais.

The woodlands and hills of the Bolinas Ridge west of Mount Tamalpais. (Wikipedia)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The failure of a ballot measure to create a dedicated funding source for California parks leaves the state park system dependent on donations and revenue from new concessions to prevent closures, according to a new report.

A study released Friday by the California State Parks Foundation finds voters’ rejection of Proposition 21 has left the California State Park System in a precarious financial situation where the public will no longer have access to some park land because of the deficit.

“The California State Park System is at an extremely important turning point, facing for perhaps the first time in its history permanent closures,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation.

“It’s taken more than a century to build this system, and if nothing is done, in fact that system will be beginning to be dismantled in a very short period of time.”

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

Goldstein said the 18-month study identified outreach to philanthropic organizations and creating new concession opportunities to attract vendors as potential answers to the park system’s budget problems.

The foundation also interviewed thousands of Californians to evaluate the public’s perception of the park system’s purpose.

“It’s about protecting the natural resources, plants and animals that make California unique. It’s about fostering education about nature,” said Ruskin Harley, executive director of Save the Redwoods League which helped conduct the survey.

Ruskin says even people who did not use the parks identified state parks as the face of California that attracts visitors from the rest of the world.

The study also sought input from 37 experts, including KCBS and Chronicle outdoors writer Tom Stienstra, author of the campground guidebook California Camping.

Stienstra said the most compelling model for managing California state parks is the East Bay Regional Park District.

“The places are beautiful. The parks are used and they tend not to have problems,” he said.

“They do have a fairly small police force for patrolling. But you don’t see rangers all over the place.”

Stienstra said it is frustrating there is no concrete plan to prevent closures.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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