Our View: Chesbro right to keep focus on state parks

By Triplicate Staff November 03, 2011 09:42 am

Kudos to state Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro for continuing to criticize the plan to close 70 state parks.

Del Norters may be paying less attention to this issue after an agreement was achieved with the National Park Service to keep much of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park open. After all, that was the only local park on the list of 70.

But remember that the state-federal pact to preserve public access to 21 miles of trails and 2,514 acres of old-growth redwoods is a one-year arrangement, with the possibility of an extension.

In other words, when it comes to the possibility of being locked out of the woods, we’re not out of the woods yet.

Chesbro issued a statement Tuesday questioning whether closing parks will actually save the state money and expressed concerns about possible damage from marijuana-growing operations and other criminal activity “that would almost surely occur” in closed parks.

It’s hard to put it any better than Chesbro did:

“Given the problems that may occur as a result of closing state parks, I think we need to continue to question the wisdom of doing so. It is hard to argue with cuts in one sector when we have made cuts in so many. That’s part of the problem we face. But I think the cold, hard facts about whether this is actually going to save money should ultimately be the bottom line when you look at it from a public safety standpoint and an environmental standpoint.”

The finances of park closure were the focus of a march and rally Tuesday in Sacramento organized by the California State Parks Foundation and joined by business owners.

“State parks have a huge economic influence on local businesses around the state,” said John Severini, president/CEO of the California Travel Association. “California’s travel and tourism industry — including hotels, local bed and breakfasts, restaurants, retail shops, tour operations and small businesses — rely on parks for visitation and economic activity.”

That’s certainly true in Del Norte, where the prospects for economic growth are inextricably tied to tourism.

Even if the state considered its budget crisis so dire that it had to turn its back on economic development efforts in places like Del Norte, the fact is that this is a money-loser for Sacramento as well: The foundation cites studies showing that every $1 invested in the state park system returns $2.35 to the state’s general fund.

So why are parks slated for closure? It’s hard to not get cynical here and figure it’s one more way for Gov. Jerry Brown to make sure that we all feel the pain of a state budget crisis exacerbated by politicians who seem incapable of achieving compromise in finding better solutions.

As for public safety, Chesbro is dead-on with his concerns about criminal activity in closed parks. We already have to deal with rampant marijuana-growing in remote areas of the county. It’s flat-out irresponsible for the state to close off areas such as the 31,261 acres south of Crescent City that constitute Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.

We have laws to force private citizens to take care of their property. We shouldn’t expect any less of the state government.

— Del Norte Triplicate