Guest Post: Facing the Wind

A guest post from CSPF President Elizabeth Goldstein

High winds are blowing all over California.  I woke to them here in the Bay Area and to news stories of hurricane force winds in Southern California.  As I watched the crowns of trees dance around on my commute to work, I couldn’t help but to think what an apt metaphor that is for state parks this year.

It has been a windy year indeed.  From the announcement of the state park closure list to the passage of the state budget with a disastrous cut to California State Parks’ budget, everyone in the parks community has been on an unprecedented and uncertain journey to a future none of us want.

Windswept Antelope Poppy Reserve by Ian Lebby

Yet there are also some positive signs out there.  And though they may not amount to a silver lining, they are encouraging nonetheless.  As you all know, AB 42 passed and was signed into law.  Non profits all over the state are beginning to make proposals to California State Parks to take over management of some parks and keep them open.

Some of the more interesting and promising efforts are happening in Sonoma County with the formation of the new Sonoma Parks Alliance  to keep the five Sonoma state parks from closing.

In addition, the National Park Service has stepped up with a one year commitment to help keep Samuel P. Taylor, Tomales Bay and Del Norte Coast Redwoods state parks open.  And there are donors all over the state who have expressed interest in keeping parks open.

But the climb will be steep.  Capacity to respond will be dependent on a lot of fast, steady learning and a willingness to deal with change.  And that is a challenge to all of us, in the best of times.  We are already bringing partners to the table to assist in these transitions.  For instance, Paul Hastings LLP, a great law firm here in the San Francisco Bay Area, has agreed to represent all of the non profits in their negotiations with California State Parks to develop operating agreements for specific parks. As we speak, we are working to amass a group of needed resources for the whole parks community.

We have also been seeing some fantastic progress on other fronts, as well.  The Fresnel lens at the Pigeon Point Light Station has been removed from the lighthouse and reconstructed in the Fog Signal Building for the public to view, marking the exciting beginning of our long-awaited restoration efforts there.  And at Yosemite Slough in Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, the first phase of work reached an amazing milestone with the opening of seven restored acres to tidal action that will eventually be wetlands alongside the slough.  Water flowed in just like it was supposed to!  We couldn’t be more thrilled.  In both cases, we still have tens of millions of dollars to raise before we can complete all the phases of these projects; but the fact that they are rolling, and the results are showing, is just marvelous.

Like a tree in a heavy wind, we must be flexible to the changes around us or we will break.  I am so grateful to all of you for supporting our work as we shift to face the wind.

– Elizabeth Goldstein, president, California State Parks Foundation

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