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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saving State Parks from Budget Cuts is High Priority

By Michele Luna, Executive Director, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods

On Tuesday, June 2nd one hundred State Park supporters attended the Budget Conference Committee meeting to testify against the Governors proposal to cut the General Fund allocation for State Parks. This cut could result in the closure of 223 State Parks including all the State Parks in Sonoma County.

We arrived at 9:30 am to lobby legislators and met with many staff members who were for the most part supportive. We stressed the economic impacts to our communities, the loss of lifeguard services at our beaches, the destruction of this incredible legacy started during the depression, and the loss of education for school children. The California State Parks Foundation did an excellent job organizing this effort in a very short time. We are very appreciative to them.

The Budget Conference Committee meeting started at 1:30. Resources shared the agenda with Prisons and we had to wait for them to present their recommendations and then for the public to testify. When it was time for the Committee to address Resources it was close to 4:30. The Legislative Analyst’s Office recommended fee increases in lieu of State Park closures. We do support fee increases considering the dire situation our state is in but we don’t want to raise fees to the point where the public has to think twice about whether or not they can afford to visit our parks.

When we got our chance to testify, we each had 60 seconds to speak. Testimony lasted until about 8:00 pm. I want to thank Fred Luna, Suki Waters and Clara Bolster who also testified from Stewards.

The Budget Conference Committee is going over all the issues the week of June 8th and we are looking for them to make their recommendation to the Governor’s office by the end of the week. At this time it is not clear as to whether or not their recommendations will go to the Big 5 or directly to the entire legislature. The Governor is pushing the legislature for a budget decision by mid-June since the State is looking at running out of cash by mid-July.

It’s not too late to TAKE ACTION.

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
June 21, 2009 – 9:00 am to Noon
FREE event except for parking fees

Join fellow park supporters at a gathering in the historic Forest Theater at Armstrong Redwoods. Experience a campfire program, hear guest speakers and share your own state park stories. Wear green or a green ribbon! Visit for more details.

Write your own personal letters to the Budget Conference Committee Chairperson Noreen Evans and our legislators. Specifically mention your favorite parks in the Russian River area.

Assemblywoman Noreen Evans
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0007

Patricia Wiggins
State Capitol, Room 4081
Sacramento, CA 95814

Wes Chesbro
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0001

Consider these facts when writing to you legislators:
The State of California contributes roughly one tenth of one per cent of its General Fund Budget toward the costs of operating California’s 279 state parks. Yet the parks generate billions in revenue for private businesses, resulting in hundreds of millions in State tax revenue. Over 100,000 private sector jobs are dependent on the spending by park visitors in local businesses.
The 2008-09 budget for California State Parks includes $149 million from the state’s tax-based General Fund. This represents just slightly more than one-tenth of one percent of the state’s total General Fund Budget ($149 million divided by $103.4 billion = 0.13%).

Assuming a $15 billion deficit in the overall state budget, then entirely eliminating the Department of Parks and Recreation and closing all 279 state parks in California would fill less than 1 percent of the need.

At this point, it is important for the public to understand that an examination of the numbers shows that reducing the budget of California State Parks will do little to improve the state budget gap. It would, however, cause significant harm to local economies and reduce the State’s General Fund revenue even further.

State Parks is a critical piece of California’s travel and tourism industry generating more than 75 million visitor days every year

Based on a 2002 study, visitors generate more than $6.5 billion dollars in total output and new sales for private businesses in communities around State parks yearly as a result of visitor spending. The tax revenue from that spending generates $2.35 in General Fund revenue for the State for every dollar of General Fund received by State Parks to operate the system (primarily from sales and income taxes on the travel and tourism industry). [ The Role of California State Parks in the California Economic System, James R. King, JK Inc., December 2002]

Therefore, based on the study, saving $149 million by closing State Parks would cost the General Fund more than twice that amount in lost revenue (more than $350 million). Also, eliminating that $149 million also eliminates the $6.5 billion in profits generated by visitor spending in local businesses around parks.

The clear conclusion is: Cutting parks will reduce the number of park visitors, thereby reducing visitor spending and revenue to private businesses by tens of millions, causing job layoffs and damage to local economies. And in the end, that will reduce tax revenue to the State making the State budget situation worse, not better.

Local Facts:

4.1 million Visitors a year visit Russian River District State Parks.

Closing Armstrong Redwoods could result in a loss of $50 million to the RR Area and up to $80 million to Sonoma County Tourism. (2008 Economic Impact Study)

On June 8, 2009, findings from a recent survey conducted by Sacramento State University were released. The survey found that visitors to California’s state parks spend an average of $4.32 billion per year in park-related expenditures, based on attendance estimates of about 74.9 million visitors a year. The survey found that park visitors spend an average of $57.63 per visit, including $24.63 inside state parks and $33 in local communities. Russian River area State Parks alone attract 4.1 million visitors a year and Sonoma County State Parks attract almost 5 million visitors a year. Do the math and we have further confirmation that closing state parks will devastate our Sonoma County economy to the tune of about $165 million a year.

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