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Palomar Mountain One of 70 State Parks to Close

Palomar Mountain and Salton Sea are among the parks closing in 2012.

Palomar Mountain is one of 70 state parks set to close next year, California State Parks announced today.

The parks are slated to close in July 2012, at the start of the fiscal year. California has 278 state parks.

The Salton Sea State Recreation Area is also included in the cuts.

Palomar Mountain State Park features spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, camping, picnicking, hiking and fishing in Doane Pond. Coniferous forests cover much of the 1,862 acres. Palomar Mountain Observatory is not part of the State Park.

The closures are necessary to achieve an $11-million reduction in the next fiscal year 2011/12, and $22 million in the following fiscal year 2012/13, California State Parks spokesperson Roy Stearns said in a news release.

These cuts were mandated by Assembly Bill 95, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in March.

The California State Parks Foundation strongly opposes the closures.

"Californians across the state have now heard the proverbial shoe drop for our state parks system,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of CSPF. “Closing these parks is going in the wrong direction.”

Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, who represents Murrieta and Temecula in the State Assembly, introduced Assembly Bill 64 to encourage the Department of Parks and Recreation to negotiate operating agreements with local governments so they could stay open. The bill was killed on the Assembly floor on May 2.

Those who spoke in opposition to the bill stated they will only support "comprehensive" budget solutions that include $11 billion in DMV, sales tax and personal income tax increases for the next five years, Jeffries’ office wrote.

"It is very disappointing when a bill that could protect some of our state parks from closure at no additional expense for the state is killed to make a misguided partisan political point," Assemblyman Jeffries said in a May 3 news release. "This bill could have saved the state money and preserved park access, but the ruling majority decided to hold parks hostage for partisan gain."

An earlier version of Jeffries’ AB 64 would have required the state to enter into an operation and management agreement with the City of Riverside to keep Citrus Park open to the public, but in negotiations with the chair of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, the bill was amended to make it apply to the whole state, but make it less binding on the Department of Parks and Recreation, according to Jeffries’ office.

Reached by phone Friday, Jeffries said the State Capitol is sending a confusing message.

"The governor is announcing the closure of State Parks, but saying we need to find more ways to work with local governments. And then you have my bill which promotes the exact same thing. It is a real challenging time to figure out...the closure list is going to wake everybody up," Jeffries said.

Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, said they regret closing any parks.
“But with the proposed budget reductions over the next two years, we can no longer afford to operate all parks within the system,” Coleman said in a news release.

“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.”

When reached by phone Friday, Stearns said the department will avoid any layoffs as a result of the parks closures.

"We have about 500 vacancies in the system. We hope to move those employees to positions in other parks that are still operating," Stearns said.

Stearns said it is about a 2,300-position system, but they have been operating at 500 less than were employed by State Parks in 1979.

"We've also get about 10 million more visitors per year with about 500,000 more acres," he added.

The land will go into caretaker status, according to Stearns.

"We won't sell it or dispose of it in any way." He said park rangers and maintenance people will check on the properites periodically.

How the Parks Were Chosen

State Parks had three primary goals for developing the closure methodology.

First, it aimed to protect the most significant natural and cultural resources. Second, it tried to maintain public access and revenue generation to the greatest extent possible and third, it aimed to protect closed parks so that they remain attractive and usable for potential partners. The methodology was included in the budget bill approved by the Legislature and the governor in March.

Despite the large number of parks identified for closure, at least 92 percent of today’s attendance will be retained, 94 percent of existing revenues will be preserved, and 208 parks will remain open, according to California State Parks.

“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,” Stearns said.

“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,” Stearns continued.

“With this announcement, we can begin to seek additional partnership agreements to keep open as many parks as possible,” added Coleman. “We already have 32 operating agreements with our partners – cities, counties and non-profits – to operate state parks, and will be working statewide to expand that successful template.”

Here is a list of all the parks closing statewide:

Marsh State Historic Park

Annadel State Park

Antelope Valley Indian Museum

Austin Creek State Recreation Area

Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park

Benbow Lake State Recreation Area

Benicia Capitol State Historic Park

Benicia State Recreation Area

Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

Brannan Island State Recreation Area

California Mining & Mineral Museum

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area

Castle Crags State Park

Castle Rock State Park

China Camp State Park

Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Fort Humboldt State Historic Park

Fort Tejon State Historic Park

Garrapata State Park

George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area

Governor's Mansion State Historic Park

Gray Whale Cove State Beach

Greenwood State Beach

Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

Hendy Woods State Park

Henry W. Coe State Park

Jack London State Historic Park

Jug Handle State Nature Reserve 

Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park

Limekiln State Park

Los Encinos State Historic Park

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Manchester State Park

McConnell State Recreation Area

McGrath State Beach

Mono Lake Tufa State Nature Reserve

Morro Strand State Beach

Moss Landing State Beach

Olompali State Historic Park

Palomar Mountain State Park

Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park

Picacho State Recreation Area

Pio Pico State Historic Park

Plumas-Eureka State Park

Point Cabrillo Light Station

Portola Redwoods State Park

Providence Mountains State Recreation Area

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Russian Gulch State Park

Saddleback Butte State Park

Salton Sea State Recreation Area

Samuel P. Taylor State Park

San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park

Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park

Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park

Shasta State Historic Park

South Yuba River State Historic Park

Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

SP Tomales Bay State Park

Tule Elk State Nature Reserve

Turlock Lake State Recretion Area

Twin Lakes State Beach

Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park

Westport-Union Landing State Beach

William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park

Woodson Bridge SRA Zmudowski State Beach

Rob May 14, 2011 at 03:24 AM
Salto Sea has a park.... well that certainly is a waste of tax payer dollars. :)
T. Johnson May 15, 2011 at 10:07 PM
Rob - what an ignorant comment. Salton Sea is actually a well-liked park by many campers. My husband was a ranger at both Standish-Hickey and Palomar Mountain. It is a shame to see any parks close, but that is what State Parks go through every year in fighting for a budget. Had the taxpayers passed the bill to add a small fee to their DMV registration, all of our parks could stay open and all of the deferred maintenance could have been taken care of. Don't forget that all of the money raised by State Parks goes into the General Fund. Wonder how much will be lost in their effort to save?
Rob May 15, 2011 at 10:48 PM
1) It was a joke, noting the smiley face. To each their own but to say the place is well liked is a relative term. By the standards used to close the park it was not popular, not generating revenue in any significant am0unt and was not a more significant natural or cultural resource. < noting this is extracted from the article and not my opionion. 2) PAY A FEE - Are you kidding me?!?!?! Another of thse "small fee" small tax comments when the State has broken the taxpayers backs a penny at a time for decades. Yo may want to read the article again. It appears the parks were not generating a profit. 3) Sell the things off to be privately managed/run. 4) I will not offer too much comment on Park Ranger pay and pension, as I have not investigated this dept. However, I do know that in Wisconsin their union had negotiated a fiexed work schedule of 7-3 and that ALL hours past 3 PM were OT... meaning the entire summer was paid at time and a half. I was joking but no park should be kept open that does not pay for itself, uncluding the salary and pension of the staff. Salton Sea is not one of them.
TVOR May 16, 2011 at 02:34 AM
Unfortunately, revenues raised had we accepted the taxes disguised as fees would not likely have found their way to the parks system. Instead they would have been appropriated for some "more important" earmark....I mean need. Our state needs to learn to live within it's means. Like it or not some of the state parks do not generate enough revenue to cover the cost of operating them. Instead of crying over spilt milk an effort is being made to mop up the mess left by overspending elected officials. We need to band together and vote out the people who have brought us to where we are.
Jeff Walters May 15, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Have all elected officals pay for their own fuel because none of them do. then use this money to reopen the parks. take their money and they will listen, quite simple really.

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