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County parks look to supervisors for help

jmellom@thetribunenews.com

The county parks system is hurting financially and must cut back services unless the Board of Supervisors allows it to tap into its rainy day fund, according to a report to the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors will discuss the report at their Tuesday meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. at the Board of Supervisors chambers, 1055 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo.

Fee-based revenues are declining for the third consecutive year, and the department faces a $688,000 shortfall by June 30, the end of the fiscal year, according to Curtis Black, parks director, and Janette Pell, director of the General Services Agency, which oversees parks.

By cutting, the Parks Department already has found more than half a million dollars — $563,000.

But it needs to either slash or raise $125,000 more. It has the choice of taking that from its contingency fund or cutting services — specifically, hiring fewer seasonal workers.

Typically, Black and Pell wrote, the county Parks Department spends $220,000 on seasonal workers. That must shrink to $95,000.

Those seasonal workers who remain would be sent to parks that generate the most money, the report says.

Pell and Black wrote that serving the less remunerative parks, while unpleasant, would be their favored option, because the county must protect its revenue stream.

“Unfortunately, the smaller parks within communities would see the greatest negative impact” from cutbacks, Pell and Black wrote.

“Visitors to those parks would likely find restrooms that are not as clean as typical, picnic tables and BBQs not ready for use, and increased park litter throughout.”

Among the facilities that could see service reductions, according to the report, are C.W. Clarke Park and pool in Shandon; San Miguel and Templeton pools; Rios Caledonia Adobe in San Miguel; San Miguel Park; Templeton Park; and Vineyard Park and trail.

Alternatively, supervisors could direct them to reduce services to all parks equally or close one park altogether, they wrote.

Black and Pell provide supervisors with an array of other options to close the shortfall.

In their report, they also delineate various reasons for the decline in park revenue.

Among them:

Because of the ailing economy, fewer people use parks and therefore there is less money coming in.

Because of state Department of Fish & Game prohibitions, the county has been unable to plant rainbow trout in its lakes, which results in fewer campers and boaters and their money.

The Coastal Dunes RV Park has reduced the number of long-term tenants — which the county defines as five to seven years — which has caused income to drop at that park from $1 million three years ago to $827,000 in its current budget.

The Parks Department is taking steps to reverse the decline. It has increased some fees, taken out advertisements and created a “marketing trends and promotions” team.

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