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The Closing State Parks

It has gotten a fair bit of press, but I wanted to do my own post about the closing of 70 California state parks in September. This has been talked about for a couple of years now, so I suppose I’ve been expecting something like this. Still, I can’t begin to express how bummed I am. Anita and I visit the parks regularly and they’re a big part of why we like living in the Bay Area. At this very moment, she is camping with a friend at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, one of the parks that will close.

According to news reports, parks were chosen based on their visitation and how much revenue they create. When I read that, I knew that one of my favorite parks would be closing for sure, Castle Rock State Park in the hills southwest of Saratoga. It’s probably one of the lowest fee generators in the system. The park has a paid parking lot, but there is free parking on the street fifty feet away from the parking lot, and everyone, myself included I’ll admit, always parks on the street. It’s popular, though, even if it doesn’t generate revenue. It has great hiking amongst oaks and laurels and redwood trees, and it’s the most significant rock climbing area in the Bay Area, the place where a number of influential climbers including Chris Sharma, probably the world’s top climber, learned to climb. The rock is a sandstone with weird twisted shapes and huecos rising on boulders and spires scattered throughout the forest; guidebooks usually use the word ‘fairy-tale’ at some point in the description. I was planning to go down and take some photos, but I remembered I already have these, from a couple of years ago, in the meantime. After I took the photo below, I realized that a little blond-haired future climber had crept into the frame. He’s pretty much exactly how I looked at that age.

Henry Coe, another favorite and one where I have paid a good amount in fees over the years, is also closing. The California State Parks Foundation has an interactive map showing all 70 of the parks scheduled to close. There’s also a petition to sign, information about efforts to keep the parks open, and a gallery of beautiful photos from the parks.

— Addendum — I found a blog for a photographer who has set himself the goal of visiting and photographing all 70 closing parks.

6 Responses to “The Closing State Parks”

  1. May 20th, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Randy says:

    This sucks I hope it gets resolved before it is too late. I recall when I was a teenager many years ago, the Ohio State parks threatened to close the parks. We belonged to the NCHA (National Campers and Hikers Association) The news showed up at the campground and one of the members of NCHA told them off the cuff. If they close the parks we’ll just have to bring our campers 10,000 of them and drive them slowly into Columbus and stay until they re open the parks. It was not long before they decided to not close the parks.

  2. May 24th, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    lostlandscape (James) says:

    Sucks is right. It takes so little to keep a park open. Too bad the parks ballot initiative last election cycle failed. We wouldn’t be here talking about this today. I’m within eight or nine miles of two state parks that won’t close–Torrey Pines and Old Town State Historical Park. And there’d be almost no way to shut down a wide open park like Anza Borrego. But I drove by San Pasqual Battlefield the other day, one of the parks that WILL close. I didn’t stop, and I’d never visited. I was curious but too scheduled to stop. I guess enough other people hadn’t made it a priority to visit either. I hope by “closed” you’ll still have some kid of access to the parks you like, even if you wouldn’t be able to use the campgrounds.

  3. May 24th, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    ryan says:

    @Randy That’s a good story. I don’t think we have a strong NCHA group to threaten them. There was a big outcry when Schwarzenegger threatened to close them all, but this time people seem to be accepting it.

    @James I was really bummed when the ballot initiative failed. It passed up here where most of the closing parks are, but we don’t have enough population to carry it for the whole state. Which is also part of the reason why more parks are closing up here. I think people will still go into some of the parks up here, and the parks will deteriorate even more quickly that they already are.

  4. May 24th, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    Plantanista says:

    My worry is that these incredible spaces may return to private hands someday. First, through concessions, then through restricted access so that the parks can be “better managed”, and then, finally, falling back into private ownership. That’s a trajectory that I hope we can change, but given the privatization trends in so-called “public/private partnerships”, it could be all too real. Those services and assets that have traditionally been the purview of government are gradually being overtaken by the likes of Veolia, and either treated as cash cows (i.e. Richmond’s Wastewater Plant), neglected to the point of no return, or both.

  5. May 25th, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    ryan says:

    Good point, Plantanista. Some people are talking about outside groups as the best way to keep the parks open, but that would be a continuation of a dangerous trend. These public/private partnerships need to be met with some skepticism, even when everyone involved has good intentions. I wish our state would just spend the money to take care of these valuable spaces.

  6. July 24th, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Lisa says:

    This is the direct result of the policy of slashing taxes. Having spent a fair amount of time in Europe, this is something that drives me insane about the United States.