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Step Up, Speak Up to Save State Parks

Writing to public officials and supporting your local parks association may help keep Sonoma's parks open.

Following the news that five of Sonoma County's most popular and historically significant parks - including Jack London, Annadel and Sugarloaf - are slated for closure, due to budget cuts passed by the state Legislature in March, the resounding question for hikers and outdoors enthusiasts is: What now? 

Can activism and local support keep area parks open? The answer, according to officials, is unclear.

"Right now I just don’t know how this is all going to play out," said Mary Pass, the Silverado Sector Superintendent for the Sonoma State Historic Parks. "We’ve been given directions to play within a budget and that’s why we’ve been looking at closing these parks."

According to Pass, the best way to support the parks is by donating to local park associations, such as the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association, which supports Annadel, Jack London and Sugarloaf State Parks and the , which - in addition to funding Sonoma's historic sites such as the and - supports the Petaluma Adobe, which is slated for closure.

"Those are the ones really providing us with additional support," she said.

See the full interactive map of state parks on the list here.

Still, outdoors enthusiasts shouldn't cancel their summer reservations -- park closures won't go into effect until July 2012, according to Roy Sterns, communications officer with the California State Parks Department.

"It gives us time to look at budget partners and see if there might be time to keep these parks open," said Sterns.

Another thing that may help: get out there and use the parks. While a combination of factors, including maintenance costs and yearly revenue, were used to decide which parks made it on the chopping block, yearly attendance was a major factor.

Over the last three years park attendance has dropped by over 10 million visitors, and paid use has dropped by 15 percent, according to 2010 reports.

The two Silverado sector parks that will survive the cuts - Robert Louis Stevenson State Park and the Sonoma State Historic Parks - are two of the most widely attended, receiving, respectively, 23,288 and 442,982 visitors in 2009.

Volunteering can also be a way to help understaffed parks cope with furloughs and reductions. (In an , Bill Keane, general manager of the The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District said that volunteerism was "key" to maintaining future park service.)

"Here in Sonoma we’re still closed on Mondays because we don’t have enough staff," said Pass. "Jack London’s going to be closed a few days in summer because we don’t have enough staff, Petaluma-Adobe is going to be closed on weekends to make up school trips."

And lastly, speak up! The California State Parks website has an link to write to public officials protesting the park closures, and you can specify an individual park by signing petitions on Change.org.

Keep an eye out for more activism and outreach information on the State Parks' website.

"We’re going to get more information on our website, that lists the organizations that now help us," said Sterns

michael thomas May 18, 2011 at 05:34 PM
The Republicans in the legislature who won't allow a public vote on the extension of the 2009 tax hikes. Contact them and demand that the public be allowed to vote on this matter so we have the funds to keep our parks open. You can't tell me that California, with the 8th largest GDP in the world, does not have the funds to keep our parks open. By the way, the parks were not closed even during the Great Depression.

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