California May Close 48 State Parks

Posted on: March 7th, 2008 by Preservation magazine 14 Comments

Monte de Oro State Park, Steve SierenFrom the Redwoods to the beaches, parts of California soon may be inaccessible to visitors.

Under the cloud of the Golden State's current fiscal crisis, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently asked each department and agency in the state to reduce its budget by up to 10 percent. The Department of Parks and Recreation came up with a proposal that sent a shock wave through the state: Close 48 state parks and reduce lifeguards at some beaches to cut $8.8 million from the 2008-2009 state budget.

Grassroots campaigns in dozens of shocked communities, including the town of Benicia near San Francisco, are calling for alternatives to closing prized resources like Benicia State Recreation Area and Benicia Capitol Historic Park. The recreation area, which the Audubon Society has designated an important habitat for birds, includes the volunteer-run Forrest Deaner Native Plant Botanic Garden, which boasts more than 200 species, and the Southampton Bay Nature Preserve. The capitol, which served as California's seat of government in 1853-54, is a cherished local landmark.

"This area is a very beautiful place for enjoying plants and birds, fishing, biking and walking," says Norma Deaner, director of the botanic garden. There's no doubt the state is in dire straights economically, but many argue that the savings represented by the current proposal are negligible, and that in difficult times, people need to immerse themselves more than ever in their state's rich heritage and natural beauty to restore their spirits. Closing these two parks would affect residents of at least six nearby communities, but 6.5 million Californians will be impacted if the proposal goes through.

"Most communities in the state will feel this. The proposal touches every geographic area, from the coast to inland parks, from northern California to the southern tip," says Traci Verardo-Torres of the California State Parks Foundation, which has mounted a major "Save Our State Parks" campaign. "Closing 17 percent of our parks is maximum pain for minimum gain," she says.

Targeting Historic Sites

"Of particular concern to us is the fact that historic parks are over-represented on the hit list," says Anthony Veerkamp of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which will address the situation at a preservation leadership conference scheduled at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in April. Thirty percent of the state's historic parks and museums are on the closure list, including Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades and the newly-renovated Governor's Mansion in Sacramento, built in 1877. The over-representation of historic sites on the closure list may simply reflect the fact that these sites are easier to close than sprawling natural areas, says Veerkamp, but historic sites become especially vulnerable when left unattended.

The current budget deficit stands at $14.5 billion; the proposal suggests savings of $8.8 million. "Those projected savings, already small, will be offset by a revenue loss of at least $4.8 million from visitors turned away," says Verardo-Torres. In addition, communities adjacent to parks are alarmed by the potential loss of significant tourism dollars.

Case in point: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown. "Closing down California history that won't be available to the public means a $15-million hit for tourism and will save only some $300,000 for the state," says Kathy Daigle, associate director of the California State Railroad Museum Foundation. Besides being a wonderful place for community picnics and other gatherings, the park draws history, railroad, and movie buffs from all over the world. One of only two preserved steam-era, shortline railroad roundhouse complexes in the country, it provided transportation for the early gold mining and timber industries. Railtown has also been featured in more than 200 movies, television programs, and commercials, ranging from "Lassie" and "Bonanza" to "The Virginian" and "High Noon."

From the county board of supervisors to the city council and the chamber of commerce, locals have come together to get the word out. They are planning a protest in April at the state capitol to deliver postcards and petitions.

"No Easy Solutions Are Left"

As documented in the California State Parks Foundation's annual "State of the Parks" report, California's park system, one of the largest in the country, has already suffered greatly from chronic underfunding. Some 17,000 volunteers have stepped up to help keep it going. Now the system is up against a tough financial reality, says Roy Stearns of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Stearns points out that, having made park operations as efficient as possible to accommodate financial strains since the early 1990s, there is no fat to cut: "We've reached the time when we have to make the hard choices. We are at the point where no easy solutions are left." Stearns wants the public to know that the department stands ready to reopen these sites when money becomes available: "Closing them does not mean abandoning them or selling them off; our goal is to preserve and protect them until times get better."

But Verado-Torres points out that closing these properties and keeping an eye on them with a skeleton staff is not the same as having a full-time staff on site. Shutting down regular maintenance at these parks could boomerang in a big way. "We already have a billion-dollar backlog in deferred maintenance in the park system," she explains. Closing these parks would likely cause that line item to balloon.

Still Time To Head Off the Proposal

For the first time in history, the California legislature has convened an emergency budget session. Concerned citizens from across the state are asking their legislators to take parks off the negotiating table. States facing similar budget decisions involving parks are watching closely.

Each park on the list offers travelers unique opportunities to experience the state's history and natural beauty, and it is clear that Californians are passionate about every one of them.

"We are all in this budget crunch together, but we shouldn't be touching our national or state parks," Deaner says. "People can go to them without spending a lot of money. Parks are good for the environment, our health, and the community."

- Catherine Clarke Fox

The parks slated for closure are:

Del Norte Redwoods State Park

Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park

Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area

Plumas-Eureka State Park

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Manchester State Beach

Clear Lake State Park

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park

Austin Creek State Recreation Area

Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve

Governor's Mansion State Historic Park

Sutter's Fort State Historic Park

State Indian Museum State Historic Park

Tomales Bay State Park

Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park

Benecia Capitol State Historic Park

Benicia State Recreation Area

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

McConnell State Recreation Area

California State Mining and Mineral Museum

George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area

Wassama Round House State Historic Park

Portola Redwoods State Park

Great Valley Grasslands State Park

Henry W. Coe State Park

Fremont Peak State Historic Park

Fort Ord Dunes State Park

Limekiln State Park

William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach

San Simeon State Park

Harmony Headlands State Park

Estero Bluffs State Park

Morro Strand State Beach

Los Osos Oaks State Reserve

Montana de Oro State Park

Providence Mountains State Recreation Area

La Purisima Mission State Historic Park

Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park

Los Encinos State Historic Park

Topanga State Park

California Citrus State Historic Park

Will Rogers State Historic Park

Pio Pico State Historic Park

Mount San Jacinto State Park

Salton Sea State Park

Picacho State Recreation Area

The 16 state beaches whose lifeguards may be cut are:

New Brighton



Natural Bridges


Bolsa Chica



San Clemente

San Onofre


South Carlsbad

San Elijo


Torrey Pines

Silver Strand

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Preservation Magazine

14 Responses

  1. David "Buster" Fitzpatrick

    March 8, 2008

    I have a suggestion(or more) on how we can save money in this state without closing any of the state parks. First fire the “governator” and his neo-con minions before they can do any real damage. Eliminate all tax breaks for the “filthy” rich. Cut back 80% of the funding for prison expansion. Repeal all or most of the anti-drug laws and also the seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws.


    March 31, 2008

    […] These parks are important to Angelenos who don’t always have access to the natural world in their every day lives in a city that is notorious for having very little public space per person (see link here). As of now the parks are scheduled to close on July 1, 2008. If you would like to learn more or take action, please see the following links or, better yet, go and visit the parks while they are still with us. […]

  3. Anna Weirick

    March 31, 2008

    Clearly this man whom we voted into office and whom we trusted would care for and love our State as we do is eager to destroy our heritage and our children’s heritage. Personally for decades La Purisma Mission has been a haven for us, a get away to enjoy the charm and beauty and the magic of mission, the garden, the animals and the surrounding countryside. This man with a bank account where he heart should be is plundering our future. Shame on you Mr Schwartzenegger, I wish you back where you came from.

  4. Jeri Jennings

    March 31, 2008

    This strike at some of the State’s most precious assets is calculating and politically-motivated.
    Every Californian should rise up declare his or her disgust and anger.

    We “fired” the last Governor for THIS clown?
    How terribly, terribly sad.

    Jeri Jennings

  5. Dave Bullock

    April 4, 2008

    This is a shocking and disgusting time in our state’s history. I hope there is some sanity left in Sacramento and this gets filed in the circular bin.

  6. Bridget White-Scheu

    April 14, 2008

    Is there no idependently weathly Rooseveltian type family that can form some sort of endowment to help maintain these great parks at least until such time that we can get a more forward thinking, responsible Governor in place????

  7. Phoenix A. Now

    April 16, 2008


    Can anyone spell R-E-C-A-L-L. NOW

    They will implement this BEFORE we have a chance to vote them out of office. Then it will be too late.

    This does not pass the smell test. The next step will be to auction off the redwoods and other resources of these parks to the highest bidder with highly placed connections… The contracts are probably already being drawn up.

    I wonder if the California taxpayers will be financing the “No Trespassing without a Hummer” signs too ?

    Phoenix, Furious in Felton

  8. Kathleen Morgan

    September 9, 2008

    The State of California can’t pass the budget. The 2008-2009 state budget proposal calls for the closure of 48 state parks, that is 20% of all California Parks. 25 of these parks are coastal access points. The closure list includes Tomales Bay State Park , this local park has annual visitation of 118,918 people.
    The state has no money left from our tax dollars to run state parks, yet the California Coastal Commission has tax money to spend trying to restrict, regulate or close Lawson’s Landing. The proposed restrictions alone could make it impossible for them to remain open.
    The California Coastal Commission’s COASTAL RESOURCE Guide states:
    “We hope that an increased awareness of the natural and cultural endowments of California ‘s coast will ensure that a balance is maintained between the need for development and the need for enjoyment of these finite resources. This can be accomplished only by the wise management and continuous protection of our spectacular but fragile coast.”
    Lawson’s provides affordable public access to the California coast.
    The owners of Lawson’s Landing have made every effort to listen to and understand the concerns and recommendations made by the California Coastal Commission and have incorporated these recommendations into the Lawson’s Master Plan. This is the only successful family run camping and fishing facility on our coast.
    Marin and Sonoma Counties must help Lawson’s Landing remain open to the public.
    This has been privately owned since the 1920’s and has been a camping facility since the 1950’s. It is an annual destination for thousands of Californians in need of affordable family vacations. Closing Tomales Bay or Lawson’s beaches would leave us with virtually no local beach access.
    Help our neighbors save there business and preserve California property rights.
    To learn more go to: and

    Kathleen Morgan

  9. Jerry

    April 3, 2009

    Face it, the governor is not the problem in this state. We have a bunch of brain dead legislators (democrats among them) that are too dumb to figure out how to balance a budget. Time to stop pretending that the governor is the problem and go after this bunch of nitwits.

  10. LC

    May 27, 2009

    Stop blaming the politicians The problem is the Californian electorate, which abuses the referendum system to increase expenditures and cut taxes repeatedly, that refuses to increase revenues and refuses to cut costs. The legislature only reflects the essential stupidity that is the Californian voter.

    There is this insane assumption that the state “wastes” its money. The fact is that it never had that much money: things in California are expensive, and surprisingly few of the state-funded programs are trivial. When the voters continued to refuse to generate new revenue, this was the only result.

    Families are losing health insurance for their children. Students are losing their university funding. Compared to these issues, the parks are just a blip.

  11. Nikki Joy

    June 1, 2009

    I live in Northern California, surrounded by beauty that takes your breath away because it is truly one of most awesome wonders in the entire world. Hundreds a old giant redwoods one side and the Pacific Ocean with the most beautiful beach areas for people to visit and enjoy on the other side of our little town. The govener sounds like he has not thought how this is going affect the future consequences which will ultimately lead to further problems and within a short time will get out of control. Right now with the economy hitting us in every direction, loss of jobs, loss of homes, loss of retirement funds, loss of business and more…. the list just keeps going individuals and families are getting hit in every direction. Things are looking gloomy to say the least but many are feeling desperate. We are already seeing more vandalizm and crime!!! Now the PARKS being closed. California is surrounded by beauty that takes your breath away it is so beautiful. Here is what I see for us in the future…. I see disrepair, overgrown forests with homeless going nuts moving in, making mess after mess with destruction, drug increases all because we have no one to take care and look after one of the most important assests we own. There has to be a solution such as possible partnership ownerships where groups of people own a piece of the park and donate their time and resouces to help keep the parks in their areas open for people to enjoy. If we unit “TOGETHER” we may be able to protect our parks for our children, grandchildren for generations to come. I don’t have the exact answer but I know if enough people care and come together … maybe if we can do something to save this very valuable asset. Give up the governer bashing… action talks. Unite and let’s come up with a plan. We have the best minds in the world and if all us think together about solutions maybe we can make this work. Unite fellow California friends…if enough people say you can count on “ME” we can do something. It is going to depend on how much we can and keeping a commitment. A friend, Nikki

  12. Rose Serio

    June 2, 2009

    When we close these parks we will in most cases forever loose the chance for our children to learn/experience nature in all its glorious forms. We run the risk of loosing our heritage and the ability to teach the next generation about conservation and the responsibility that our forefathers passed on to us will be forever lost. Instead of going to the chopping block why can’t we add a $10.00 fee to each car registration? This solution was enacted in Montana when they ran into this problem and worked for them. Allow people to opt out but also allow us to save the legacy which up till the present day was our birth right and national heritage.

  13. lovestohike

    June 5, 2009

    The parks…are important to so many
    Tell Sacramento today

  14. Orlando

    June 16, 2009

    I think it is a well established fact that the park system economic benefits far outweigh costs when all factors are considered. I don’t think this is a very wise move by the Governor.