Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation authored by Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D-San, Fernando Valley), Chair of the California Assembly Budget Committee, that places a moratorium on state park closures, provides new funds to keep state parks open, and reforms state park management.
“Our parks are our heritage and they belong to every Californian,” said Blumenfield. “By signing this bill, the governor has ensured that all of our parks will stay open to be enjoyed.”
Assembly Bill (AB) 1478 has the following elements:
- A two-year moratorium on the closure of state parks;
- $10 million targeted to aid state parks at risk of closure;
- $10 million in funds to match private and local donations raised to keep state parks open;
- $10 million in bond funds to prevent state park closures caused by overdue maintenance needs; and
- An increase in the oversight role provided by the State Park and Recreation Commission over the management of the Department of Parks and Recreation (Department).
The bill was crafted in response to the discovery in mid-July that now former officials at the Department concealed a $54 million surplus over a period of 12 years. The discovery of these funds occurred after the Department indicated that as many as 70 park closures were necessary due to budget cuts. News of the surplus, which was reported by the Los Angeles Times, lead to the resignation of California Parks Department Director Ruth Coleman.
“Rogue bureaucrats lied to all of us,” added Blumenfield. “The governor acted swiftly and appropriately to remove them. Now, after signing this bill, we can move forward.”
AB 1478 was shaped by oversight hearings conducted by the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees after the hidden park funds were discovered. Independent audits have also been commissioned by the State Legislature get more answers about the concealment of these funds.
“My heart goes out to parks advocates who feel burned by this fiasco,” concluded Blumenfield. “They heroically raised millions to help keep parks open. I proudly supported their efforts in my community to keep state parks open at Los Encinos and Santa Susana. This bill was designed to ensure that a lot of good will come from their hard work.”
“AB 1589 gives the state important tools for a future that is increasingly emphasizing the need for more self-generated revenue in our parks,” said CSPF President Elizabeth Goldstein. “While we do not believe that our state park system, a true public good, will ever be able to sustain itself without a core of dedicated, public funding, we do wholeheartedly agree that the movement toward more revenue generation should be done with a roadmap. The action plan required in AB 1589 requires such a roadmap and maintains the need for revenue ideas to be appropriate to the mission and uses of our state parks.