SAN JOSE, Calif. — In the latest setback to California Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to close one-quarter of California’s state park system to save money, 16 of the parks he is proposing to shutter cannot legally be closed, federal officials said Friday, because they have received federal money that requires parks to remain open.
"This funding is a grant to the state, like a contract," said Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. "It is linked directly to the deed of these lands. It says the state makes a commitment to provide these place for public use in perpetuity. To not do that is essentially a breach of that contract."
The affected parks include Castle Rock State Park in Santa Clara County, Twin Lakes State Beach in Santa Cruz, Portola Redwoods in San Mateo County, Candlestick Point near San Francisco, Limekiln in Big Sur and Salton Sea State Recreation Area in Southern California.
"It’s a challenge. It’s a legitimate issue we have to work through," California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman said Friday.
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Problems with the state’s plan surfaced last week when the head of the California Coastal Commission said that even though 11 state beaches are on the closure list, state park rangers cannot legally block anyone from the shoreline. The latest stumbling block centers around a federal program known as the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the fund collects royalties from offshore oil drilling and uses the money to buy land for national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. The leading source of parks funding in the United States, the fund also issues grants to state and local parks to pay for everything from land acquisition to building new trails, visitor centers and restrooms.
Since 1965, California has received $287.3 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Written into the law is a requirement that any parks that receive the funds are required to remain open to the public.
If states close parks that received the funding, the law does not require them to pay the money back, but it does require states to provide new park land of equal appraised value in a nearby location. Also, the National Park Service could declare California ineligible for future federal parks grants if it closes parks that were purchased with land and water act funding. Read more at mercurynews.com »