Thursday, June 28, 2012
UPDATE 6/28 5:20pm: The freshly signed state budget has allocated enough funding to keep all of the parks on the closure list open, according to State Parks Monterey District Superintendent Mat Fuzie.
Don’t cry for our state parks just yet. Four in Monterey County were slated to close July 1, but three will probably be spared.
The ink’s not dry yet, but deals are in the works to keep Limekiln, Garrapata (both in Big Sur) and Moss Landing State Beach open to the public. Zmudowski State Beach, also in Moss Landing, is facing closure.
In May 2011, the state Department of Parks and Recreation announced 70 of California’s 279 state parks would close at the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year, saving $22 million through 2014.
But according to a June 20 State Parks report, 55 of those 70 are likely to remain open through partnerships with donors, government agencies, nonprofits and private concessions.
Democrats in Sacramento are meanwhile working to stabilize parks funding. The Sustainable Parks Proposal, led by Sens. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), dedicates some $30 million for state parks with Gov. Jerry Brown's June 27 signature of the 2012-23 state budget.*
Several related parks measures are in the natural resources trailer bill that was headed to a floor vote at the Weekly’s deadline.
“The next week will be a very telling time,” Simitian says.
State Parks recently put Limekiln, Moss Landing and Zmudowski operations out to bid, but only one had a bite: Templeton-based Parks Management Company proposed paying the state $2,800 per year to run Limekiln. That proposal is still under review.
Mat Fuzie, Monterey District superintendent for State Parks, says the five-year concession agreement would save personnel costs, but could pose public safety issues. “We won’t be responding to emergencies,” he says. “They will be relying on local law enforcement and a protracted response time.”
As far as the state is concerned, Zmudowski, Moss Landing and Garrapata are still on the chopping block. “If there’s local interest [in partnerships], it’s not ripe enough to come to Sacramento,” State Parks spokesman Roy Stearns says.
Local deals are, however, in the works for Moss Landing and Garrapata.
On June 4, the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District board agreed to pursue an operating agreement for Garrapata. District rangers would take on restroom maintenance and garbage pickup, and Big Sur Land Trust would help out with labor.
“We’re working in that area anyhow,” MPRPD General Manager Jim Sulentich says. “It made perfect sense to offer those services to State Parks.”
Moss Landing State Beach might not close, either. A partnership with Elkhorn Slough Foundation is in the works, Fuzie says, and the district is shuffling its remaining resources to support the popular surf spot. “We’ve given up personnel and we’re reducing our costs in other places in order to keep patrolling Moss Landing,” he says.
Foundation spokeswoman Lorili Toth cautions that the Moss Landing partnership still needs board approval and $100,000 in funding over two years. “It’s our every wish and desire to keep that beach open and to make sure the otters and other marine life, along with the wetlands and the beach area, are protected,” she says.
Zmudowski, a remote coastal stretch at the end of a 2-mile farm road, is still set to close July 1. There’s no plan to physically keep people off the beach, Fuzie says, but parks personnel will lock the gate, end patrols and quit maintaining the restrooms. Dune restoration work will probably continue. “In essence,” he says, “it’ll be getting a rest.”
(*This sentence was updated on 6/28 to reflect Brown's June 27 signing of the 2012-13 state budget.)