Text by Christian Camerota
Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger has a plan to help remedy California's budget debacle: terminate state parks.
With the state in dire financial straits--partially as a result of private and commercial property values run amok and a slew of bad mortgages--it seems only fair to focus on shutting down what little public land remains. A report in the San Jose Mercury News in May indicated that Schwarzenegger's initial proposal was to close 80 percent of California's state parks (220 out of 279), with an estimated savings of about $143 million, or far less than 1 percent of the state's $24 billion budget shortfall (mercurynews.com).
If you're looking for irony here, there's plenty of it. Just consider the fact, as an LA Times article points out, that keeping an eye on unmanned wilderness is actually pretty pricey. When parks close, they become havens for criminal activity that must be closely monitored. Because their verdure is unmaintained, it also means that wildfire potential skyrockets. The cost of fighting and extinguishing one large-scale fire could potentially wipe out all the money saved by closing the parks.
So, it turns out that this is as bad an idea as, say, putting an Austrian-born bodybuilding action movie star in charge of one of the largest states in the union.
No, we jest. Kind of.
But it is testament to the idea's absurdity that Schwarzenegger sees fit to peel funds off an agency with a total budget of only $387 million. It's hard to believe that there's not more wiggle room in the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's $10 billion dollar spending, or maybe the Department of Business, Transportation & Housing's $12 billion in expenditures. Heck, how about lopping some limbs off the $40 billion dollar K-12 Education expense tree and telling the kids to just go out and play in the park, instead?
The good news, if that's what you want to call it, is that the federal government has vowed to step in and seize six of the parks, should they be closed, according to an AP report released yesterday. And we all know how effective the federal government is at managing things (see: economic stimulus plan). So, that's good. Maybe there's hope in some of the parks being "too big to fail."
For more information on efforts to save the parks, you can visit this website, which is updated frequently with related news: savestateparks.org