Successful efforts to save our California State Parks serve as a powerful testament to the strength of of the dedicated collective
It started with a lot of numbers. The first was 80, eluding to the 80 percent of state parks that were facing extinction at the hands of Governor Schwarzengger’s budget plan just this past spring. Then it was 100, the whittled-down number of parks that the Governer’s plan actually set its sights on. But a surprise announcement from state officials on September 25 added a whole different number to the mix: zero, referring to the number of state parks actually in danger.
It was an unexpected decision, especially in a time when financial expectations are at an all time low. And in the case of People vs. Profit, parks and recreations are rarely, if ever, granted the kind of pardon that has Santa Cruzans throwing their hemp hats in the air.
But it all comes at a price. In an effort to keep the parks open, mandatory maintenance reduction and a cap on the purchasing of vehicles and equipment is saving the state a reported $14.2 million, in addition to the $2.1 million saved by reducing staff and days/hours of operation.
“The announcement today is a victory for the parks and for the people of California, but shows once again that we need to find a permanent funding plan for our parks,” said Dan Jacobson of Environment California, a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. “The legislature and the Governor will have to work together in the 2010 legislative session to find a long term funding solution.”
But there is an undeniable willingness to compromise, as the supporters of the state parks are still able to call this a victory in the highest order. And during a crisis that has left the middleman extinct and the everyman up in arms, the sustaining of the parks is truly an inspiring victory — one that merits equal kudos for the state government for its willingness to heed the call of its citizens.
Moreover, our own community deserves praise for its active role in saving the state parks. The 17th district, namely our own precious Santa Cruz, was responsible for placing the highest number of phone calls urging for the reassessment of our state funding in order to allow for the state parks to stay afloat. But really, did we expect anything less from a community that is known for being as passionately loud as it is weird?
The survival of the state parks marks a widespread win for everyone. In a time of ever-changing policies, both cultural and political, there is a remarkable constant that lies within the power of the natural park. As we look to the future for much-needed change, there is an undeniable desire to keep somethings unaltered — consistency in a landscape that is becoming increasingly unfamiliar.
The thought that natural land might not be available to the public wassomething that could initially only be seen as a violation of unofficial natural laws. Forbidding citizens from entering untouched areas within their own community was a thought that carried more weight than we’re perhaps ready to bear. It becomes a much larger issue when placed into a broader context of what it means to no longer be able to access your own land, in a time when ‘our land’ is on the precipice of such drastic change.
But what this reassessment of state funding can really do is further our realization about what our priorities should be as we head into the future of what can only be described as a new California. Our land, quite simply, must be protected. It must be taken into account. It must be treated as a priority. We must have a balance of both constants and progress, to remember what needs changing, but also to remember what needs to be preserved. Our vocal refusal to allow the closing of our state parks is the only reason we are able to claim its victory. We must remain aware about our future decisions, and the inevitable effect they will have on the natural land we so often take for granted.