State Parks face difficult questions regarding $54 in reserve
by Brian Leubitz
In an interesting KQED Forum program, Elizabeth Goldstein, head of the California State Parks Foundation, discussed the possiblities of what could happen with the excess funds that were hidden for a decade or more:
Goldstein has reason to be cautious. Of the $54 million surplus, $33.5 million is in the Off Highway Vehicle Trust Fund and can only be spent on off-highway vehicle services. That leaves $20.4 million in the Parks and Recreation Fund for the state legislature to re-allocate to keep the parks open, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.
There's no word on when or if the legislature will consider re-allocating the funds.
"We all hope the legislature is going to rededicate this funding... to state parks," Goldstein said. "This is one of the things that should be on everyone's list."
But even if the legislature approves the re-allocation, it still won't solve all the parks' financial issues. Goldstein noted that the department has a $1.3 billion maintenance backlog that needs to be addressed.(KQED)
That backlog is growing by the day. If you walk around the state parks for a while (I'm a huuuge fan of the state parks), you'll notice fixes that have been left undone for too long. A broken step, or poor trail maintenance, to the larger items like maintenance on structures. There is just a lot to be done. And like the rest of California's infrastructure, there just isn't enough money to get the job done.
$54 is a lot of money, don't get me wrong. But this pot of change isn't going to address the larger issues with the state parks. Fundamentally they are being starved of resources at the same time as they have been going through a prolonged leadership crisis. I know John Laird has been working to improve the parks, and the interim director, Janelle Beland, brings some great experience. But, when it comes down to it, the system just hasn't been managed as well as other state park systems and especially the national park system.
We have many priorities to be funded in an overstretched budget, but ignoring the parks comes only at our peril.