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September 28, 2022

Can we keep our State Parks open?

Well, now we know what we face. The Governor has cut an
additional $6.2 million from the State Parks budget bringing the
total to $14.2 million for the 2009/2010 fiscal year. That doesn’t
count the three furlough days that State Park employees are
required to take each month and the potential revenue losses with
park closures. This is devastating news for our parks statewide. We
can expect to see the potential closing of more than 100 State
Parks after Labor Day unless local communities can attract
financial sponsors to help keep them open. Seasonal and mid-week
closures will also be considered. The Governor has put the
responsibility on the people of California to keep our parks open
through public private partnerships.
With the economy affecting so many people, we need our parks.
Day use attendance is record breaking and our campgrounds are full
because people are using our parks more then ever. State Parks
provide an affordable vacation for most Californians. Where will
they go to recreate with their families during these trying
economic times?
Our local rural communities will suffer with the loss of tourism
dollars. Russian River District State Parks attract close to 5
million visitors a year. That represents an influx of millions of
dollars into our local economy. How will struggling local
businesses survive? How many more small business owners will be
forced to close their doors at the end of summer?
How can you help?
It’s now up to us locally to come up with a strategy to keep
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Austin Creek State
Recreation Area, Sonoma Coast State Park, Fort Ross State Historic
Park and Salt Point State Park open in the Russian River District.
Funding is needed to keep our facilities open, including the
Stewards’ office and our Visitor Centers. Our parks need our help
in order to maintain essential services like water, sewage,
electricity and trash pickup, to name just a few.
Park visitors have suggested fee increases, which we need to be
receptive and ready for. Many of our parks are free for walk-in
visitors. We hope that locals who use our parks daily for exercise
and to walk their dogs will find a way to give back either by way
of a monetary donation or by volunteering their time. Fees benefit
the State Park System statewide. Donations to Stewards of the Coast
and Redwoods (Stewards) and volunteer support for our special
events, like the Bodega Seafood, Art and Wine Festival and the Old
Grove Festival, will directly benefit our local State Parks. Either
way, it’s going to take all of us contributing to keep our parks
open.
The more life support we can provide, the greater opportunity
there will be to reduce the number of parks that will close. If you
are someone who thinks you can help bring significant financial
support to our parks, please contact me. We will be convening a
working group of people to move us forward with this effort as soon
as possible. If you are able to contribute even a modest amount, we
will put your donations to good use specifically to keep our local
parks open.
Long-term Solution
Initially, we see this as a two-year project, after which we are
hopeful that we can float a successful ballot measure that provides
a sustainable funding source for our State Park System into the
future.
The time is now to create a positive legacy for our
grandchildren so they will not lose the chance to visit a State
Park and learn about the fragile natural and cultural resources
that need our stewardship into the future.
Michele Luna can be reached at [email protected] or 707-869-9177 extension
4. Visit www.oldgrovefestival.org for
event information.
Michele Luna is the Executive Director of Stewards of the Coast
and Redwoods.

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