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Camping options cut back

Campgrounds at state parks from San Simeon to Morro Bay and Montaña de Oro will be partially closed starting Sunday and continuing into next spring as a result of state budget cuts.

Affected are San Simeon State Park, Montaña de Oro State Park, Morro Bay State Park and Morro Strand State Beach.The closures come after months of speculation on the future of California’s state parks.

To make up its budget shortfall, the state Department of Parks and Recreation will cut back on maintenance, security and other services starting Sunday in an effort to save money.

The department, which released its list of cuts Tuesday, will work to maintain services as best it can while reducing the budget for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30, officials said.

Gov. Arnold Schwar-zenegger had threatened to close up to 100 parks to help slash the state’s projected deficit but opted instead to have staff work with the agency to cut costs and, in some cases, hours or days of operation.

The one-time budget savings plan cut the parks operating budget from $143 million to about $129 million.

State Parks Director Ruth Coleman that these changes will help this year, but that the budget-reducing process will start again early next year.

Department spokesman Roy Stearns said when listing examples of service reductions, “Hearst Castle will attempt to maintain 100 percent of the tour schedule by reducing all other public services,” including maintenance, curatorial, ticket office and security services.

To further raise money without adding new costs, State Parks will increase the number of operating hours using a self-guided tour option beginning in March.

Those tours likely would start at the end of the daily tour schedule and allow people to wander on terraces and other outdoor areas but not go inside any of the buildings. Security personnel would be on duty.

Coastal state parks hit by cuts

State parks in San Luis Obispo County will have various levels of closure under plans being implemented to meet budget reductions. The closures will be in effect through May:

• Hearst Castle: Tours will stay on the current schedule, but building and landscape maintenance, as well as conservation, will be reduced.



• San Simeon Creek Campground: The Upper Washburn camping area will be closed during weekdays, as will one loop in the lower campground; those campsites will reopen during weekends and holidays.



• Morro Bay State Park: Open to campers with reservations until the end of December, but the number of campsites with reservation availability will be trimmed in half to reduce maintenance. Some campsites could be closed if demand is low.



• Morro Strand State Beach: Campsites will have periodic closures depending on demand. A damaged restroom at 24th Street will not be repaired this year.



• Montaña de Oro State Park: Half the sites will be closed at the Islay Creek camping area.



All parks will see reduced response by rangers and less facility maintenance, housekeeping and natural resource management, said Nick Franco of the San Luis Obispo Coast District.

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