A PDF from California Department of Parks and Recreation outlines why the parks in question were targeted and points out a few telling details, such as:

  • Elimination of public access at the 48 parks will result in a revenue loss of approximately $3.7 million to the State Parks and Recreation Fund (SPRF).
  • The $13.3 million reduction and the $3.7 million loss in SPRF revenue, would result in a projected total reduction of $17.0 million in funding for the operation and maintenance of the state park system.
  • State Parks has more than 75 million visitors every year. These park closures are projected to reduce the annual visitation by about 6.5 million visitors or less than 10% of our total attendance, meaning most of the system, 230 of the 278 state parks, will remain open and operational.
  • In the 1980s, State Parks began deferring maintenance to the system, such things as repairing roofs, bathrooms, roads, fences and trails. Since then, deferred maintenance has continued to grow due to the continued under-funding of the State Parks’ maintenance budget. Today, the deferred maintenance backlog for the system stands are just over $1.2 billion. The annual shortfall in on-going maintenance is $117 million.
  • In 1990-91 the state spent $4.16 per visitor to state parks. That figure has continued to drop ever since, with this latest 08-09 budget reduction proposal bringing that figure to roughly $2.80/visitor (in inflation-adjusted 2006-07 dollars).
  • Raising fees can produce more revenue, but it also gets to a point of diminishing returns where people stop coming to the system and attendance drops, and revenue along with it. We are near that point today.

So, closing these parks does make it easier to keep the rest open — this is actually a plausible rationale. The billion dollars in deferred maintenance is not pretty, either.

But all this assumes new revenue sources aren’t available. They can be, but not if we assume raising money to support the parks is solely the state’s job.