When are parks closing?

One of the problems with the plan to close state parks is that it is a different process for each of the 70 parks on the list. That means the date that each one will close is different. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find out when each one will close. That’s frustrating, isn’t it?!

So we’ve slowly started the process of tracking the status of the 70 parks. No full closures have happened yet (though McGrath and Henry W. Coe both narrowly avoided it at the last minute). However, service reductions and partial closures keep getting worse and they are impacting parks on the closure list. Here are a couple examples of service reduction information that is available on the state’s official website:

Until further notice these parks will contain areas where services are reduced or eliminated due to the fiscal crisis.

  • Samuel P. Taylor State Park
    Beginning Sept. 5, 2011, family campsites will operate on a first-come, first-served basis ONLY until further notice. All group campsites at Devil’s Gulch and Madrone and Irving Group Picnic will be closed completely until further notice.

    This camping scene at Russian Gulch State Park is no longer. Photo © Carolyne Cathey.

  • Russian Gulch State Park
    Day use will remain open during the winter, but Russian Gulch campground is now closed until further notice.
  • Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park
    Trash removal reduction; “Pack it in, Pack it out” signs posted. Closure of flush restrooms at Visitor Center; portable toilet installed at Visitor Center. Park office closed; heat set to 55 degrees to protect artifacts and exhibits.
  • Brannan Island State Recreation Area
    Closed Tuesdays through Thursdays. Camping unavailable on Monday through Thursday nights. Day Use open Friday through Monday. Visitor Center is now closed.

These are just a few examples. There will be more to report on, and we will be sure to do that. But you are all out visiting parks every day. What are you seeing and hearing out in the parks? What’s being posted in your local state park, regardless if it is on the list or not? Please post your own report in the comments. (If you have a photo to share, please post it to our Facebook page.)

It's Magnificent.

While on the one hand we are doing this sad information gathering, on the other we are finding ways to celebrate the 70 parks and tell their stories before it’s too late. That is why we created this new website, The Magnificent 70. If you haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, you should! There are gorgeous photos from all 70 parks, and as you scroll through the photos, you can also read unique stories about each park.

Here’s to keeping our eyes and ears on the parks.

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Folks Making Art for Parks

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is thereby a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”
― Ansel Adams

California state parks serve as inspiration to artists, photographers, painters, and all those folks who try to capture the magic in some form so they can take a little piece of the parks home with them.  Perhaps we cannot experience our favorite park every day, but we can glance upon a photo in our home and conjure up those memories to pass the time until our next adventure.

One group, Folk4Parks.org, is capturing the magic of state parks in much the same way. Folk4Parks is a net-roots organization and fellow advocate and voice for parks. They have announced that they are commissioning a new, collectable state park poster series to commemorate the state park system. The artwork in the series is inspired by the Art Nouveau period of the early 20th century, a reminder of a time in California history when our parks grew and prospered. All posters are 12″ x 17″ aqueous-color prints on premium recycled paper.

Last week, Folk4Parks introduced the first poster in their series: Annadel State Park.

The first of Folk4Parks' new CA state park poster collector series

“We felt Annadel was a great place to start,” said Christopher Grant Ward of Folk4Parks. “Sonoma County is especially hard hit by the closure list, and we wanted to provide an opportunity to support the Parks Alliance of Sonoma County.”

Folk4Parks hopes that these posters will help raise money for other non-profit organizations across the state.

“For any CA State Park organization that wants to participate, this could be a great way to draw attention to their local state park, raise money and offer their members a beautiful, collectable thank you gift for supporting their local park,” said Christopher. “Interested organizations can contact Folk4Parks at takeaction@folk4parks.org to get involved.”

In the coming weeks, Folk4Parks will be offering more posters from parks across the state. We encourage you to collect them all. Start with Annadel!

Poems from California State Parks

© Ted Judah, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

As we have mentioned in previous posts, we are keeping tabs on all the amazing folks who are mobilizing to spread the word about park closures. These Californians are discovering how they can help in their own unique ways, and it’s so inspiring we want to tell their stories.

One such Californian is poet Katherine Hastings. She recently curated a book of poetry inspired by parks and has called it “What Redwoods Know: Poems from California State Parks.”

“The idea of this book didn’t come about as a way to save our parks; I’m not unrealistic,” said Katherine in the Introduction of her book. “But some action had to be taken so I put out a call to poets in Sonoma County to join me in hikes through several state parks and asked them and other poets up-and-down the state to submit poems inspired by the parks in their areas, whether they are scheduled for closure now or not.”

Contributions from over a dozen Sonoma County poets tell beautiful stories inspired by parks like Annadel, Jack London and Sugarloaf. As Katherine put it, these poets contributed to this book as an act of love for our state parks.

Another poet who championed for the environment: Dr. Seuss

Sneak Peak from “What Redwoods Know”:

around here
trees are
poets
in fall
they turn
heavyhearted

excerpt from “Trees are Poets”
– Francisco X. Alarcón

If you’d like to purchase a copy of “What Redwoods Know,” please email kfhastings@mac.com. For each purchase made, Katherine makes a donation to CSPF. Additionally, there will be a live reading from the book on November 17 at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 2251 Chestnut Street, San Francisco. Come by to meet Katherine and hear some of the park poetry! Books Inc. will be kindly donating 20% of proceeds from book sales that evening to CSPF.

Thank you to Katherine and all the passionate Californians making things happen. Are you a passionate activist who is riled up about state parks? Share your poems and stories below!

Park Heroes are Mobilizing

As Tony Barboza of the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week, “the stewards of campgrounds, beaches, monuments, redwood forests and nature preserves and across California are finding out closing a park is easier said than done.”

But despite the complications, folks across the state are proactively mobilizing to keep the state parks nearest and dearest to them open and protected. Here are some highlights of solutions forming across California:

Henry W. Coe
Success story!  Last Friday, state parks officials reached an agreement with nonprofit group Coe Park Preservation Fund to keep Henry W. Coe State Park open for at least three more years. The nonprofit will provide $300,000 a year for the next three years to pay for half the operating costs of the park.

Read more: San Jose Mercury News

Santa Cruz Mission
The nonprofit Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks is working to ensure the state doesn’t close Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, the oldest building in Santa Cruz. The group is looking to start a community fundraiser this fall to keep the mission open.

Read more: KION/KCBA

Palomar Mountain
Folks are working to form a “Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park” association, which will be a non-profit charitable organization intended to support the Park financially for its day in, day out programs and general enhancement. If you’d like to be part of the new Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park, visit palomarsp.org/friends.

Read more: San Diego Hiker blog

Benicia
CSPF President Elizabeth Goldstein is meeting tonight with an influential group in Benicia to explore solutions to keep Benicia Capitol State Historic Park and Benicia State Recreation Area open. The public meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Dona Benicia Room at the Benicia Public Library, 150 East L St.

Read more: Vallejo Times Herald

Nonprofits Everywhere
And, of course, more nonprofits will be able to get involved in these kinds of solutions once AB 42 is signed into law! Amazing groups like Mendocino Area Parks Association, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Friends of Pio Pico, and Save McGrath State Beach are doing great things up and down the state already, so AB 42 will hopefully be a great catalyst for their work.

Even so, saving these parks won’t be an easy task. Hear what California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman and CSPF President Elizabeth Goldstein have to say about the nuts and bolts of closing a state park on yesterday’s KPCC Air Talk.

This list of heroes is by no means exhaustive! Who is mobilizing in your community to help state parks? What is your organization doing? Voice your solutions here.

Citizens, unite for park legislation!

“The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead

Let’s take a page or two out of the books of Alexis and Margaret and make sure we are getting involved in the legislative process that is happening before our eyes, Californian citizens.

Gov. Brown is starting to review the nearly 600 bills (!) on his desk. Now is the time to let him know you want to see his signature on Assembly Bill 42. Sign this CSPF-sponsored petition to ask for his support. Here’s an excerpt from the petition:

Dear Governor Jerry Brown,
As a strong supporter of California’s state parks, I’m writing to urge you to sign Assembly Bill 42 by Assemblymember Huffman. AB 42 is an important tool that allows the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to enter into operating agreements with nonprofits to operate state parks. […]

In addition to the online petition, if you are in the Sacramento area, please come sign a petition in real life at CSPF’s (Park)ing Day site! We will have a parking space park on the corner of 16th and J in Sacramento from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. this Friday. Take a couple minutes to sign our oversized park closure petition postcards and enjoy our little PARK(ing) space.

Hope to see you there, citizens.

CSPF Does (Park)ing Day

Sometimes when you have a message to share, a little public demonstration is exactly the right way to share it. And the more fun this demo the better, which is why we are very excited to be participating in the upcoming (Park)ing Day.

(PARK)ing Day is an annual, worldwide event where artists, activists, and citizens independently (but simultaneously) turn metered parking spots into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public parks and other spaces for people to enjoy. The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created, allocated and protected to improve the quality of urban human habitat.

Picture yourself in a (Park)ing space! Image © iomarch via flickr

We as members of the parks community have a fantastic opportunity to use this day to raise awareness about the impending closure of 70 California state parks. CSPF is planning at least one event in Sacramento, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sept. 16 on the corner of 16th and J. If you are in the area, please come by and sign our oversized park closure petition postcards and enjoy our little PARK(ing) space.

If you aren’t in Sac area, try to join an already planned (PARK)ing space in your community. There are dozens of (PARK)ing Days happening in California on September 16. You can check the (PARK)ing Day world map to locate already planned events.

Assembly Bill 42 Clears Legislature

We’re making progress, park supporters! Earlier today, the State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 42 (Huffman), the bill sponsored by CSPF to help keep California’s state parks open.  Similar to the successful vote last week out of the State Senate, the bill passed off the Assembly Floor this morning on a strong bipartisan vote, and now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signature.

AB 42 provides authority to California State Parks 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
  • The nonprofit submit an annual report detailing its operating activities in the past year and hold a public meeting
  • No General Fund subsidy can be given to the nonprofit to operate the state park
  • 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.

Gov. Brown has until October 6 to take action on Assembly Bill 42.  Be sure to send a message to the governor to let him know you want his vote on AB 42! 

A park supporter signs a petition for AB 42

A state park bill’s journey

Last night the California State Senate took up Assembly Bill 42 (D-Huffman). We park supporters were anxious for a passing vote, and we definitely got it with strong bipartisan support by a margin of 32-2.

This bill is important to us because it will allow the state to enter into operating agreements with qualified nonprofits so that nonprofits can help keep some of our state parks open to the public. It will be a big step forward in our fight against park closures. (Here’s some more info from KPCC.)

If you have been following this bill on its journey through the capitol, then you know that after many months we are nearing the finish line. AB 42 will now go back to the Assembly Floor for a final vote there. (Though the bill passed through the Assembly once already, changes were made in the Senate committees, so the Assembly must pass the amended version one final time. Don’t follow? Take a quick detour through a School House Rock lesson.)

If the Assembly passes the final version of AB 42, and we hope they do, then the bill will make its final journey to the governor’s office, where Gov. Brown will have the power to sign it into law … or not. We all need to be on our advocacy A game as soon as that bill hits his desk, letting Gov. Brown know we want his signature on that bill. We will let you know how to sign a petition or send a letter to the governor so he knows we support this legislation. Or, if you want a notice in your inbox, sign up for our advocacy action alerts emails.

What do you think about AB 42?

State parks represented at the capitol in 2010