Nearly all of the 70 California state parks originally slated for closure Sunday will remain open for now, despite a line-item veto of parks funding by Gov. Jerry Brown, state parks officials said today.
The Department of Parks and Recreation has already struck deals with private donors, foundations and non-profit groups to continue operating 40 that were on the endangered list, including the Governor's Mansion in Sacramento. At the direction of Brown and lawmakers last year, the parks department had targeted the parks for closure based on attendance and how much revenue they generated.
Because the state has found outside partners interested in sparing an additional 25 parks, it will keep them open using a sliver of special funds that Brown retained in the budget he signed Wednesday night, parks officials said. Democratic lawmakers added $41 million back into their budget to keep parks open, but Brown line-item vetoed $31 million of it.
That leaves five parks for which the state has struggled to find donors or other agencies willing to chip in: Benicia State Recreation Area; the California Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa; Gray Whale Cove State Beach near Montara; Zmudowski State Beach near Moss Landing; and Providence Mountains State Recreation Area in San Bernardino County.
It remains to be seen what will happen to those parks come Sunday, but at least one - the Mining and Mineral Museum - is planning to shut its doors and pack up more than 13,000 objects in its collection, according to curator Darci Moore.
"At this point, we have no choice," Moore said. "We will be packing up the mineral collection and putting it in storage."
Even if they face closure, the two state beaches on the endangered five-park list would remain open to visitors but without trash pick-up and restrooms, said Natural Resources Agency spokesman Richard Stapler.
Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said today he still sees a path to keep all of the parks open using $10 million that Brown agreed to restore as a stopgap measure. Stapler said the department is examining possibilities over the next 24 hours that could save the last five parks without donors.
"What this does is give us the money to allow us to focus on the next 30 without a tight June 30th deadline," Laird said. "We will work through every agreement that is possible with a proposed stakeholder. And then when we get to the end, I expect that there will likely be a few parks for which nobody has stepped forward, and then we will cross that bridge with what we do at that point."