The Marathon to Reform State Parks

Montgomery Woods State Park. Photo by Peter Buranzon
Montgomery Woods State Park. Photo by Peter Buranzon

I’ve enjoyed watching the Olympics these past three weeks—and not just because it’s hosted in London with a British squad that has surpassed all expectations.  It’s just plain fun to get into obscure sports and watch people at the top of their game run, jump, shoot, dive, cycle or row their way into the history books. One thing has become clear to me over these weeks: Regardless of whether it is a 10-second sprint or a 2-hour (wow!!) marathon, these sports are all marathons if you consider the four years of work to prepare.

Much like the spotlight focusing fans’ attention during the gold medal event, all eyes have been on the California State Parks “hidden funds” crisis and other allegations. The rush is now on to understand what happened, and why, and fix it. We applaud the Governor’s intention to invest every dollar of the $20 million raised in parks back into the parks to support the partnerships, to chip away at the deferred maintenance backlog, and to invest in revenue-generating projects.  We call on both houses of the Legislature to rapidly appropriate these funds that were paid by park users.

But once the spotlight moves on, the hard work will really begin. We need to start training for the marathon. The additional $20 million will help around the margins but still leaves parks vulnerable in the next year’s budget, which is just 11 months away.  And beyond that, the underlying problems of parks—chronic underfunding, deferred maintenance, and a leadership and management approach that fails to meet the current challenges—have taken a generation to build and cannot be fixed overnight.

The current crisis underscores the need for reform and creates a platform for it to be pursued. I am confident that by the time the world’s attention turns to Rio and the 2016 Olympics, our state parks will look significantly better because of the work the parks community is starting. Save the Redwoods League will continue to be a leader in parks reform because of our longstanding history with the state park system and because the redwoods we have protected need a strong state park system.

I welcome your thoughts about the types of changes you feel are needed to ensure the future of the redwood state parks.

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About Ruskin Hartley

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