State targets parks for closure
Annadel State Park, Jack London State Park, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and the Petaluma Adobe are among the 70 state parks that are scheduled to be closed if private and public partnerships, or other means, aren't soon found to keep them open.
None of the six elements that make up the Sonoma State Historic Park are on the closure list. That includes the Mission, the Vallejo Barracks, the Gen. Vallejo Home and other historic adobe structures in town.
On Friday, California State Parks announced that, because of budget cuts, it would have to close up to 70 of 278 parks around the state.
In addition to the four Sonoma County parks, other parks in the Silverado Sector facing closure include the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park in Calistoga, Bothe-Napa State Park also in Napa County, and the Benicia State Capitol and the Benicia State Recreation Area in Solano County.
Other popular parks frequented by Sonoma Valley visitors are China Camp and Olompali in Marin County, and Russian Gulch on the Mendocino County coast.
According to a release from Roy Sterns, a parks spokesman, the closures are necessary to achieve an $11 million reduction in the 2011-12 fiscal year, and $22
million in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Stearns said he doesn't anticipate any closures before July 2012, but that service reductions are anticipated.
Mary Pass, the Silverado Sector Superintendent for the Sonoma State Historic Parks, said she hasn't heard when the parks will close but she thought it might be sometime this fall.
"We've gone through a number of drills over the past year," she said. "We've been looking at statistics for the past year."
The statistics include revenue and attendance.
"Some of the parks are going to be hard to close because they have multiple entrances," Pass said. "This is a sad day for people in Sonoma County," she added.
Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, said, "We regret closing any park, but with the proposed budget reductions over the next two years, we can no longer afford to operate all parks within the system."
Coleman added, "With this announcement, we can begin to seek additional partnership agreements to keep open as many parks as possible. We already have 32 operating agreements with our partners - cities, counties and nonprofits - to operate state parks, and will be working statewide to expand that successful template."
State Parks had three primary goals for developing the closures:
• Protect the most significant natural and cultural resources.
• Maintain public access and revenue generation to the greatest extent possible
• Protect closed parks so that they remain attractive and usable for potential partners.
"These cuts are unfortunate, but the state's current budget crisis demands that tough decisions be made," said Resources Secretary John Laird. "Hopefully, Republicans in the legislature will agree to allow California voters to decide whether we extend currently existing taxes or make deeper cuts to our parks."
Sixth District Assemblymember Jared Huffman, who is also the chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, said, "While we are dismayed at the prospect of state park closures, this announcement does not come as a complete surprise. We have been anticipating the release of the proposed closure list for some time. With the magnitude of the current budget cuts, it was inevitable that state park closures would be announced."
"As a result of previous reductions, many state parks have already been suffering from partial or functional closures, with reduced hours of operation, closed campgrounds, and growing deferred maintenance," he continued. "These reductions are also impacting local communities through reduced economic activity and overflow into local parks. The planned full closure of 70 parks as announced today will be devastating for park visitors throughout the state."
Recent visitor figures are hard to come by and all numbers available are estimates, but in 2002 there were close to 144,000 visitors to Sugarloaf ridge State Park, visitation to Annadel has been estimated as high as 300,000, and Jack London State Historic Park had approximately 70,000 visitors in a count down two years ago. Between them, the three parks provide nearly 13,000 acres of open space, hiking, horseback and biking trails and scenic vistas.
Despite the large number of parks being closed, at least 92 percent of current attendance will be retained, according to Sterns, 94 percent of existing revenues will be preserved and 208 parks will remain open.
State Parks believes the methodology developed preserves and protects parks critical to the mission, which provide for the diversity of experiences wanted by visitors across the state.
For instance, State Parks has a variety of state historic parks, state beaches, state recreation areas, state nature reserves and state parks and most of the parks in all categories will remain open to serve the diverse preferences of park visitors.
A complete list of the closures, alphabetically, includes:
Anderson Marsh State Historic Park (SHP), Annadel State Park (SP), Antelope Valley Indian Museum, Austin Creek State Recreation Area (SRA), Bale Grist Mill SHP, Benbow Lake SRA, Benicia Capitol SHP, Benicia SRA, Bidwell Mansion SHP, Bothe-Napa Valley SP, Brannan Island SRA, California Mining & Mineral Museum, Candlestick Point SRA, Castle Crags SP, Castle Rock SP, China Camp SP, Colusa-Sacramento River SRA, Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP, Fort Humboldt SHP, Fort Tejon SHP, Garrapata SP, George J. Hatfield SRA, Governor's Mansion SHP, Gray Whale Cove State Beach (SB), Greenwood SB, Grizzly Creek Redwoods SP, Hendy Woods SP, Henry W. Coe SP, Jack London SHP, Jug Handle State Natural Reserve (SNR), Leland Stanford Mansion SHP, Limekiln SP, Los Encinos SHP, Malakoff Diggins SHP and Manchester SP.
Also, McConnell SRA, McGrath SB, Mono Lake Tufa SNR, Morro Strand SB, Moss Landing SB, Olompali SHP, Palomar Mountain SP, Petaluma Adobe SHP, Picacho SRA, Pio Pico SHP, Plumas-Eureka SP, Point Cabrillo Light Station, Portola Redwoods SP, Providence Mountains SRA, Railtown 1897 SHP, Russian Gulch SP, Saddleback Butte SP, Salton Sea SRA, Samuel P. Taylor SP, San Pasqual Battlefield SHP, Santa Cruz Mission SHP, Santa Susana Pass SHP, Shasta SHP, South Yuba River SP, Standish-Hickey SRA, Sugarloaf Ridge SP, Tomales Bay SP, Tule Elk SNR, Turlock Lake SRA, Twin Lakes SB, Weaverville Joss House SHP, Westport-Union Landing SB, William B. Ide Adobe SHP, Woodson Bridge SRA and Zmudowski SB.