About 200 activists demonstrating on behalf of more than half of the 70 state parks targeted for closure due California’s budget crisis braved broiling temperatures Tuesday in Sacramento to rally at the Capitol building.
Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino and Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park in Chatsworth are on Gov. Jerry Brown’s hit list. There are plans to lock out park-goers and shutter the popular hiking and biking trails by next summer.
Park supporters have been writing letters to state legislators to ward off the closures.
Two bills pending in the state Legislature could help to prevent park closures: AB 42, which are on the Assembly and Senate floors, would allow the state to join with nonprofit organizations and local governments to keep the parks open.
“It’s upbeat and fantastic,” said John Luker, supporting the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park about the rally. “Everyone realizes the parks will be closed. But by the same token, in looking around and looking at the others in the same boat, it brings a feeling of mutual reinforcement.”
Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), who represents Encino, could not be reach for comment.
The California State Parks Foundation hosted Tuesday’s rally to highlight the impact of the closures; showcase the natural, cultural and historic resources that will be at risk, and meet with legislators to seek ways to protect California’s state parks during this fiscal crisis.
Speakers included Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation; state Sen. Lois Wolk, author of Senate Bill 580; Assemblyman Jared Huffman, author of Assembly Bill 42; Robert Hanna, founder of Range of Light and great-great-grandson of naturalist and explorer John Muir, and Alden Olmsted, a filmmaker and son of naturalist John Olmsted.
Parks Foundation spokesman Jerry Emory said about 200 people met under a large tent where pamphlets, photographs and other materials were handed to the public.
Holding the rally on the lawn of the Capitol gave the cause good exposure, Emory said.
“To see all of these independent representatives under one tent, [it is] impressive to see their dedication to their specific park and their regional parks,” Emory said.
Emory said Brown’s veto of the state budget last week was a surprise. He said he doesn’t believe it will change the status of the parks when the budget is finally signed.
As part of the 2011- 2012 state budget, the state park system will begin to implement $11 million in cuts that will grow to a permanent $22 million General Fund cut by 2012-2013.
“Everybody loves state parks. No one wants to see them close,” Luker said. “It’s the worst-case scenario for everyone.”
Luker, who was recently named Chatsworth's Citizen of the Year, said money is tight and legislators have to make some hard choices.
“The one message we are sending them is that if the parks need to be closed, give [local park associations] the resources they need.”
Luker said the larger message is that since the state parks budget is being slashed, park rangers and other employees don’t have what they need to do their jobs properly.
He urged the state to give park associations and volunteers the tools to take over.
In a Facebook post, Dale Chaloukin of Chatsworth, who helped plan the Sacramento rally, called it "interesting, no promises but some interest from the legislators or their staff. Sen. [Ronald] Calderon [D-Montebello] showed the most interest, even to make calls on our behalf," Chaloukin said.
Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee and a former staffer of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said it would be a sad day when parks close.
“I am committed to reversing this," Blumenfield said.
Los Encinos State Historic Park, at the corner of Balboa and Ventura boulevards in Encino, was the hub of Rancho El Encino. It contains exhibits related to the agricultural enterprises of Rancho El Encino's various owners, including Mission Indian, Mexican Californio, French and French Basque families.
Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park, which offers panoramic views of the rugged natural landscape as a striking contrast to the developed communities nearby, is located where the Simi Hills meet the Santa Susana Mountains south of the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway in the northwestern portion of Chatsworth.
Click here to review the list of pending state park closures.