It’s never good news when the Governor’s office notifies you by email that the director of California State Parks has decided to step down because a senior staff member allegedly mismanaged park funds. According to an article published by the Sacramento Bee, a high-ranking official hid approximately $54 million over the past 12 years. As you can imagine we were taken by surprise and deeply disappointed by the news.
As I read and listened to how the story unfolded over the weekend, I was reminded that our state parks have been through a lot during the last couple of years, from the ebbs and flows of the economy to park closures to the current mismanagement scandal. Despite these challenges, we must not allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch. Over the years we’ve worked with dedicated, passionate and trustworthy park staff. Their staunch commitment to parks reminds us all that we must continue to work together to rebuild and reinvent our park system so that our natural treasures are protected forever. After all, our first and foremost priority is to safeguard redwoods and their surrounding lands for all to experience and enjoy.
If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud I would point out that thousands of “park friends” including nonprofits, elected officials, corporations and park enthusiasts across the state have stepped up to keep open 68 of the 70 parks slated for closure. Despite the department’s alleged mismanagement of funds, the overwhelming response by a broad parks community underscores the hope and confidence of a bright and prosperous future for parks.
Today we stand at a crossroads. California State Parks is the primary custodian for most of the redwoods the League and its members have protected since 1918. We simply cannot turn our back on the redwoods or our long time partner in Sacramento. We must stay strong and forge a new path for state parks and the special places they protect. We need a strong and healthy park system to ensure our redwood parks are protected forever.
Save the Redwoods League has been protecting redwood lands for nearly 100 years. We’re the only organization with the type of comprehensive approach needed to ensure that forests that take one thousand years to grow will be here for another thousand years. But we know we can’t do this alone. With your continued support, we will weather this storm because we know that the 2,000 and 3,000 year-old giants will continue to inspire the imagination of countless generations to come. We still need a community of caretakers committed to protecting the magical redwoods and magnificent California landscape.
These are tough times for state parks so we need to join forces and recommit ourselves to strengthening the state park system so that the redwood forests that are part of it remain protected and cherished. The redwoods themselves are truly innocent bystanders in all of this, and they need our continued help.