Arnold Schwarzenegger released his budget yesterday after months of rallies, protests, phone calls and letter writing campaigns from a wide range of Californians with an even wider range of interests, needs and concerns. As a Californian and legislative chair for my son's elementary school PTA, I will tell you that every ugly scenario had been discussed at the state, local and neighborhood level. While there is no "good" news in the budget, which is facing a $15.2 billion dollar budget deficit, there were surely sighs of relief among those who love and work for California's state park system. Originally many of the Golden State's 48 parks were slated for closure. Under the new plan, all parks will remain open, however user fees will be increase by one or two dollars. Other fees, such as cabin and equipment rentals may also increase.
Last night's San Francisco Chronicle explained department-by-department, in clear terms what the cuts mean to California's residents and visitors...
Regarding the Parks: "All of the state parks will remain open, and all employees, including lifeguards on state beaches, will remain on duty. The 6.5 million visitors a year who would have been harmed by the proposed closures will continue to enjoy the parks, but all visitors will have to pay $1 to $2 more in entrance fees.
The story also contained a quote by State Parks Director Ruth Coleman who brilliantly positioned the parks as a critical solution to economic woes. Coleman said, "We are really grateful that Californians will be able to continue to use their parks," State Parks Director said. "Of all the years that it matters, this is the one, because people are really suffering from high gas prices and a faltering economy. People need a place to get away that doesn't cost them too much and doesn't use too much gas."
ACTION ITEM - No matter where you live, but especially in California, today is a day to send a letter to the editor echoing Ruth Coleman's thoughts. Your parks are a diversion in tough economic times and offer an affordable place for people to vacation, unwind and connect with family. Have some fun with the story by talking about your parks in terms of the amount of gas it takes (or doesn't take) to get there. For example: From most neighborhoods, Main Street Park is less than a one gallon trip. Where else can you have this much fun on only $4.00 of gas. You may even want to suggest a story idea to your local editor that looks at Great Places to Relax on less than $10.00 in gas.
-- ranging from school children to park advocates