When Open Space Isn’t

For several years now the California budget train wreck has put state parks in a precarious swing position of being used by elected officials as a visible example of what we, the people of California, won’t have because Sacramento can’t manage a budget (well they don’t say it this way, they position it as “if you don’t vote for more taxes you won’t have parks in your life”).

I recently read about a group of people in Marin who banded together to raise money that would ensure China Camp State Park (a wonderful park btw, you should visit it) stays open. Their plight perfectly illustrates the broader issue of state parks and recreation facilities in the pecking order of budget priorities, but it also serves as a cautionary tale of how bureaucrats and politicians in California have successfully executed on a public policy campaign to put us all on the government teet.

These parks were here long before the state government deemed it necessary to deploy park rangers to all corners of the state, and the parks will remain here long after we are gone. Public spaces are just that, public spaces! We do not require services or supervision in order to enjoy them so the argument that parks will close without taxes is itself a red herring… what will happen is that the state will close off public spaces because their full employment is not ensured.

A reasonable compromise for a state with no money would be to remove the padlocks and open public spaces like parks and lock the doors on facilities that require staffing, such as visitor’s centers. If concession services are available then contract with private entities and remove the state from the providing of services to one of managing contact vendors who render a concession fee to support oversight.

So ask yourself, why is it necessary for a park ranger to be at his/her post in order for me to use a park that is by definition owned by the People of California. They pay no rent for the park, have no mortgage, provide basic services that are not essential for the operation of the park, and already have infrastructure to support vehicle, foot and bicycle traffic. Why can’t state parks remain open without a staff presence and rely on volunteers for basic maintenance? #occupystateparks