Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, applauded Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday for signing Assembly Bill 42, Huffman-authored legislation that will enable some of the state parks threatened with closure due to budget cuts to remain open.
AB 42 authorizes the state Department of Parks and Recreation to enter into operating agreements with nonprofit organizations to operate a state park unit if the agreement will enable the state to keep open a state park that would otherwise be subject to closure.
“The Governor has recognized the important role that state parks play for Californians, and my bill represents a creative solution that will allow the state to secure partnerships to enable a number of the state parks on the closure list to stay open,” Huffman, who represents Sonoma residents in Sacramento, said in a news statement. “Particularly in these tough economic times, creative public/private partnerships are an essential tool in providing ongoing protection of, and continued access to, these treasured public assets."
Brown has recognized that nonprofit organizations are essential partners to state parks, particularly as 70 parks are set to close, said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation.
“In the more than 40-year history of [the foundation], we’ve never seen our state park system at as much risk as it is today,” said Goldstein. “Even with the success of AB 42, there may still be parks for which there is no easy solution, nor available community ‘safety net’ to keep them open. That is a difficult future to contemplate. In the coming months, we will be working to encourage qualified nonprofit organizations to pursue agreements under the provisions of AB 42, and we remain committed to helping organizations, businesses, agencies, and Californians identify ways they can help work to save our state parks.”
Nonprofit that get involved in supporting state parks would be required to provide an annual report with an accounting of all revenues and expenditures that would be made publicly available. All revenues received from the park could be expended only for the benefit of the state park unit. The nonprofit could contribute additional in-kind services and funding from outside entities for support of the park.
Since the list of parks slated for closure several for-profit companies have been proposed partnerships with the parks – including and , which proposed filling in the deficit in exchange for gambling rites.
Just last weekend Jack London by a group of Los Angeles-based actors to host a summer theater troop, which would donate a portion of their profits to the ailing parks.
In May, Huffman said he believed the closure of state parks would do little to improve the state’s fiscal situation in the short run and only serve to harm state and local economies in the long run by losing tourism dollars.
“We need to continue to seek stable long-term funding for state parks while at the same time work to facilitate other creative solutions, including public/private partnerships, to keep state parks open for the public’s benefit,” Huffman said at the time.
Parks slated for closure north of San Francisco include Samuel P. Taylor State Park Petaluma State Historic Park, Olompali, China Camp State Park and Annadel State Park. Nearly 45 percent of entire statewide system of state historic parks are proposed for closure. The North Coast counties (Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte) have 22 parks on the closure list, accounting for 31 percent of the closures.