Environment & Science

Half of California state parks set to close in July now likely to stay open

Jug Handle Beach is a part of Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, which was recently saved from closure.
Jug Handle Beach is a part of Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, which was recently saved from closure.
Images by John 'K'/Flickr

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At a Sacramento hearing Tuesday, state park supporters found out that about half of the parks, beaches and historic sites slated to close this summer because of budget cuts will likely be spared.

State park officials say they’ve secured enough private funding to keep 11 of the 70 parks open and are working on deals to preserve another 24.

Roy Stearns with the California State Parks says a surprising number of individuals and groups have stepped in to save the parks.

“They basically make a donation that pays for the salaries and the operating costs for us to run it,” Stearns explains. “We'll probably run it at a bare minimum standard, just so we can keep it open as long as possible.”

The Legislature voted as part of an earlier budget to close 70 parks to save the state $11 million annually, but Stearns says groups around California have stepped up to fill in at least some of the gap.

“We have a lot of co-op associations in our parks already, and friends of various parks that are working out there, and groups that are forming," says Stearns. "[They're] coming together to pool their resources and brainpower to get things done.”

Alden Olmsted, son of naturalist John Olmsted, placed buckets in parks around the state and asked every Californian to donate a dollar.

Enough people have tossed coins and bills into those buckets to keep Jug Handle State Natural Reserve on the Mendocino Coast from closing.

In Southern California, park officials say they’re close to deals that will keep the doors open at Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino and Pio Pico State Historic Park in Whittier.

Even if a park closes, Stearns says, any group that can pull together enough money can also negotiate to reopen the park in the future.

This story has been corrected: initial versions had misspelled the name John Olmsted, calling him John Olmstead instead.