As we reported a few weeks ago, it was discovered and publicly disclosed that the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) had been hiding approximately $54 million in surplus funds for the past 12 years. The parks community was shocked, surprised and angry to discover this news. Why have we fought so hard against park closures and budget cuts when there was more money available to DPR?
Now that the dust has settled a little and audits are underway, it is clear to us the money that was “discovered” may or may not be used for its intended purpose: for the maintenance of our state parks. It is up to the Legislature where that money should go, a decision they must make in the next 9 days before the legislative session ends for the year.
We are lobbying the Legislature to allocate the recently-identified $20.3 million in funding from the State Parks and Recreation Fund (SPRF) for use in state parks. SPRF money comes from state park fees for day-use admission or parking, overnight camping or boating, and more. We are concerned that the SPRF money is becoming a tempting target for budget raiding. After more than 14 months of tremendous work in communities around the state to keep our parks open, it would only add insult to injury for the Legislature to put those funds elsewhere or, even worse, claim to put them into state parks but simply reduce the park system’s General Fund allocation at the same time.
That said, we are asking for help in urging legislators to maintain access and support for California’s state parks by directing the recently-identified and unspent state park funds back into the state park system. Please join more than 3,000 park advocates who have already take action and use our online system to send a message to your legislators and the governor urging them to allocate these funds back into our state park system.
Your action is extremely important, as policymakers are expected to make a decision in the next week about how to allocate this funding.