California's Parks have landed on a list that confirms what we, in the park and recreation world, have known for decades -- that parks systems nationwide are underfunded, and in some cases, reaching the point of extinction.
The "List of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places" was issued this week by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. From the publicity and public awareness perspective I can't decide if making the list is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm leaning toward the positive. Of course, I don't' think that insufficient park funding is a good thing. However, as I researched this story which appeared everywhere from USA Today to the History Channel and more than 500 web sites nationwide, I felt satisfaction that the media and Americans can better understand that THEIR parks are endangered and in danger. Watch the History Channels five minute video including its passionate support of all parks here:
As I mentioned earlier this week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger released his 2008-2009 budget this week. And while the news was bleak, as he had been warning for months; it was as bad as projected. For example, contrary to earler proposals, this budget did not require the State Park System to close almost 20% of it's approximately 250 parks. Even with this better news, the State Park System still made this dubious list. According to USA Today:
"National Trust president Richard Moe reiterated Monday that the parks still are suffering from $1 billion in deferred maintenance. The group's concern lies primarily with conditions in California's 51 historic parks, which, Moe said, is indicative of circumstances in other states.
"State historic sites are chronically underfunded. We're trying to dramatize what's happening in so many state park systems," he said.
This is the 21st year the organization has compiled its endangered list, which targets architecturally and culturally significant sites. Sarah Hefron, in an article posted on the organization's web site says:
"Not surprisingly, we spend a lot of time here at the National Trust for Historic Preservation thinking about threatened sites and how we can play a role in saving them – especially at this time of year, when we announce our annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Budget cuts, deferred maintenance, road construction, and development are among the dangers faced by sites on 2008’s list, which includes California’s State Parks, Charity Hospital and adjacent neighborhood in New Orleans, and New York’s Lower East Side.
So, what do you think about state parks landing on this list?
- Send a link to this blog post to everyone you know in your park system including citizen board members as a sobering reminder that "this could happen to us."
- Use this list as a way to generate media attention about the budget difficulties in your park system.
- Better yet, use the information to shed light on budget difficulties in your park system in order to create community interest, launch that parks foundation or Friends group you've been talking about, or build a development campaign.