California’s state parks need a lot more money. Paul Rogers of the Mercury News summarizes the pluses and minuses of several key strategies. One of my copy desk cronies wrote this gem of a headline: How would you feel about ‘Budweiser Beach’? Rogers identifies five scenarios:

  • Fees

    Pluses: Users — who generate costs — help defray them. Alternative to unpopular taxes.
    Minuses: Prices the poor out of their parks, assets that benefit the whole state even if everybody doesn’t use them.

  • Corporate sponsorship

    Pluses: Brands can put their names on branded activities — so, perhaps, an REI trail might encourage REI consumers to hike on it. Non-Californians let Californians off the hook financially.
    Minuses: Aesthetically offensive, politically poisonous. Funding susceptible to corporations’ bottom-line pressures.

  • New taxes

    Pluses: Dedicated income stream protects parks from economic ups and downs. Reliable revenue ensures better upkeep, which attracts more people. Holds user fees down.
    Minuses: Prop. 13 makes it almost impossible to create new taxes, even for things the state’s populace likes, like state parks. Creating a tax for parks makes every other interest group think they oughta have their own tax too.

  • Creating an endowment

    Pluses: A large enough endowment generates interest payments that can pay for park operations and maintenance. Limits user fees.
    Minuses: Endowment has to be huge, like a billion dollars, to generate enough income. Education interests will demand that schools get full funding before such largess is given to parks.

  • Volunteers

    Plus: Free labor from true believers.
    Minus: Free labor from true believers.

  • All of these factors add up to the situation we’re in now: Over a billion dollars worth of maintenance put off till another time. Meanwhile, parks become embarrassingly tattered and people have an excuse to take their activities elsewhere.


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