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Study: California’s State Parks Pay For Themselves

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June 10, 2009

Closing California's state parks would be an expensive move, according to researchers at Sacramento State University (CSUS). Their data indicates the park system more than pays for itself by generating tourism dollars.

Faced with a multi-billion dollar state budget deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is pushing a plan to close 220 of the state's 279 parks.

The CSUS study found 75 million people visit California state parks each year, spending almost $60 apiece on their trips, both inside and outside the parks. Ruskin Hartley, executive director of the Save the Redwoods League, says if keeping parks open is truly a matter of money - do the math.

"Every time a family visits one of those parks, be they camping or day-use, they often stop in the local community. Their dollars there are recycled through, and return $2.35 to the General Fund for every dollar spent."

The governor's proposal would close 60 of 61 parks that are home to ancient redwoods, which Hartley says would keep Californians and many others from seeing the world's tallest trees. He also points out that officially closing the parks won't necessarily stop people from entering - and may end up causing more damage.

"They've been here for 2,000 years; they will be here for a number of years longer. But one of the kind-of perverse effects that happens when they close parks is that use doesn't stop. It often continues, but the use becomes unguarded."

According to the survey results, compiled from from Fall 2007 to February 2009, park visitors make $4.3 billion "park-related expenditures" each year. The governor's office is said to be exploring public-private partnerships and other options that might allow additional parks to remain open.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA