Park closure portends future
Sooner than anyone expected, the fiscal calamity wrought by Sacramento’s budget bungling descended on the Sonoma Valley, with news Wednesday night that Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is closed as of yesterday.
Original plans to shutter 70 state parks raised the expectation the ax would not fall in the Valley until July 1, by which time volunteer/nonprofit management plans could be in place.
The early closure was apparently a pre-emptive move in the face of further budget reductions triggered by failure of the California economy to meet the unrealistic expectations for a bump in tax revenues as the recession continues to infect the state’s fiscal health. As a result, State Parks simple doesn’t have enough staff to keep Sugarloaf running through the winter. Plans call for the park to reopen March 1, but in the present budget climate that cannot be considered a certainty.
Access is currently being limited to programs at the Robert Ferguson Observatory and the Sonoma Ecology Center, pending state approval, is preparing to conduct training for volunteers who can then become members of a citizen park patrol.
In the long term, a private-public partnership may prove to be the model by which many state parks survive, and Sonoma County is leading the way through the efforts of the Parks Alliance for Sonoma County.
We’d love to see a legal lever by which recalcitrant legislators who blindly refused to raise any form of taxation in the midst of the state’s deficit crisis would be required by their constituents to volunteer half their time maintaining the parks they allowed to close, perhaps by cleaning latrines, repainting buildings and digging trenches. They might also be put to good use volunteering in classrooms they permitted to suffer the burden of massive and continuing revenue cutbacks.
Get back, Gene Simmons
On an entirely unrelated issue, we were surprised to find the proposal for a city protocol office had managed to get its nose back under the tent at the Nov. 21 City Council meeting.
We addressed this non-starter in a Sept. 13 editorial entitled, “Don’t let Gene Simmons sing,” in which we suggested that sometimes good things come in bad packages, like Kiss front man Gene Simmons singing a Beatles song.
Our problem with the original proposal for a protocol office was, first, the price of $500,000, which we viewed as a preposterous expenditure in this time of universal governmental belt-tightening, even if it all comes from nonprofit sources. If there’s half a million dollars of philanthropic loose change in this Valley that hasn’t found a home, we would have been happy to suggest a dozen or so causes more deserving than an office of protocol.
The proposal, presented by consummate protocol professional Sherri Ferris, has been downsized to $110,000, an amount we would still insist is inappropriate to even consider.
We are further concerned with the proposal’s lack of sensitivity to the protocol skills of existing city staff and the lack of clarity about how an independent office would be integrated into city staff responsibilities.
Ferris has valuable skills the city could contract to access on those infrequent occasions when they are truly needed.