With the Morro Strand State Beach campground facing possible closure July 1, discussions are under way to find a nonprofit that will help keep the 84-space facility open.
Nick Franco, superintendent of State Parks San Luis Obispo Coast District, said his department is in talks with various entities that would help keep Morro Strand open.
Weve been working with Cal Poly for a while, and it would be a great fit if we can make it work, Franco said.
Also expressing an interest in keeping the park open are Options and Achievement House, groups for individuals with special needs.
Of course the city of Morro Bay is interested in keeping it open, Franco said.
In addition, various businesses have looked at it through the lens of being a private concessionaire.
The state has been considering the closure of 70 of its 278 parks as a means of cutting about $33 million from the state budget over a two-year period. Morro Strand would be the only park in the county to be closed.
Thats a scenario that could cost the city of Morro Bay an estimated $2.5 million a year, according to Morro Bay Mayor Bill Yates, who said the number is predicated on about 44,000 campers who use the park each year and each of those campers spending about $60 in the local economy.
Yates told The Tribune in late January, after the city was notified of the closure: We dont care who operates it; we just want it to stay open. It would be tragic for the city to see that campground closed.
Although the campground is no-frills, with each site containing a fire pit, picnic table and a flat spot for a tent and pad for an RV, it does have utilities, two restrooms and trash receptacles that have to be maintained, as well as the costs of fee collection and endangered-species protection.
In addition, the Azure Street and 24th Street lots, which each have restrooms and trash cans maintained by State Parks, would be closed.
Franco said it was difficult to assess a precise dollar amount that it costs the state to run the campground on an annual basis because it comes down to budgeting a fifth of a maintenance worker here and a fourth of a ranger there. But a ballpark estimate of keeping the park open would be around $260,000 a year.
Farther north in southern Big Sur, Limekiln State Park in Monterey County is also facing closure in July. However, Franco added, that campground has released a request for proposals for concessionaires to consider.
According to The Associated Press, Michael Harris, acting chief deputy director of the state Parks and Recreation Department, said his agency is working feverishly to keep parks open and only 15 of the original 70 targeted parks may ultimately close. It all hinges on negotiations with various agencies and organizations.
In the final tally, Franco said, The best thing people can do to keep state parks open is to use them.