An Important Step for Parks

An important line in the sand got drawn for state parks last month when Governor Brown signed two bills into law, Assembly Bill (AB) 1478 (Blumenfield) and Assembly Bill (AB) 1589 (Huffman). Both bills have measures that will help California’s ailing state parks system.

AB 1478 appropriates the recently-identified $20.5 million in State Park and Recreation Fund funding to the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to keep parks open that had previously been slated for closure. The bill also contains new qualifications for appointing members to the nine-member State Park and Recreation Commission. The changes to the Commission are intended to improve its ability and capacity to provide oversight of DPR and foster a more meaningful connection between the public, park stakeholders, and DPR. AB 1478 also establishes a two-year moratorium on closing state parks, in Fiscal Year 12-13 and FY13-14.

Governor Brown made the first important step toward restoring public confidence in California’s state parks by signing AB 1478. The governor’s signature is a good sign faith on the part of California’s government that all the hard work of communities, organizations and donors across the state who stepped up to support their parks is recognized and appreciated. The governor also signed AB 1589 (Huffman), which requires DPR to develop a new action plan for increasing revenues in state parks, allows purchase of annual park passes on annual tax returns, and encourages an independent assessment of California’s state parks.

AB 1589 gives the state important tools for a future that is increasingly emphasizing the need for more self-generated revenue in our parks. While we do not believe that our state park system, a true public good, will ever be able to sustain itself without a core of dedicated, public funding, we do wholeheartedly agree that the movement toward more revenue generation should be done with a roadmap. The action plan required in AB 1589 requires such a roadmap and maintains the need for revenue ideas to be appropriate to the mission and uses of our state parks.

We look forward to working with the governor, Legislature and all Californians to implement provisions of AB 1478 and AB 1589 and to maintain and strengthen the legacy in our state parks.

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