With a strong bipartisan vote, the state Assembly passed Assembly Bill 42 (Huffman) today, the bill sponsored by the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF) to help keep California’s state parks open, passed through the Assembly Tuesday and now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signature.
Gov. Brown has until Oct. 6 to take action on Assembly Bill 42.
“As we begin to see parks around the state prepare for unprecedented closures that will be permanent by next summer, AB 42 is an important lifeline to help our state parks,” said CSPF President Elizabeth Goldstein. “AB 42 allows the state to explore beneficial partnerships with nonprofit organizations to help operate park units that might otherwise be closed. At this time, it is essential that every kind of partner is able to pursue agreements that will help safeguard our parks, engage communities, and maintain California’s commitment to our parks.”
Passage of AB 42 comes at the same time the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) begins the process of closing state parks for financial reasons. As a result of an $11 million budget cut to the state parks system enacted earlier this year – the first of two cuts that will total $22 million by next July – DPR announced a list of 70 parks to be permanently closed by next summer.
Locally, this includes Joshua Tree National Park, which is a prime nature spot for wildflowers and much of the flora and fauna indigenous to Southern California’s deserts.
“California is about to take a big step backward with its environmental reputation,” said Goldstein. “Since the founding of the first state park -- Big Basin State Park -- in 1902, Californians have worked to protect, preserve and promote a state park system that has grown as the state and its needs have grown. We are now in a moment when government seeks to make the system smaller, less available and less protected than it has ever been. AB 42 invites qualified nonprofit organizations and the public to take an active role in reversing those actions. We urge Gov. Brown to sign AB 42 and let Californians step forward to help protect our parks.”
AB 42 provides authority to DPR to enter into operating agreements with qualified nonprofit organizations to operate part or all of a state park unit. The bill ensures transparency in the operations of a state park by a nonprofit by requiring that:
All revenues generated in the park stay in that park and be directed toward that park’s needs. No General Fund subsidy can be given to the nonprofit to operate the state parks.
The nonprofit submit an annual report detailing its operating activities in the past year and hold a public meeting. The remainder of any concessions contract’s term be preserved by the nonprofit, and scientific and other specialized functions be conducted only by qualified individuals and subject to state oversight.