Editorials

Park closure would harm, not help

Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to close 70 state parks — including the campground at Morro Strand State Beach — doesn’t add up. The $22 million in savings that would be realized is too puny to worry about; it accounts for just two-tenths of 1 percent of California’s $9.2 billion deficit.

And that’s not the worst of it. When you account for what local communities will lose if these tourist attractions close, the “savings” realized by the state quickly turns into big losses for small businesses, as well as cities and counties that benefit from sales tax revenues.

Officials in Morro Bay, for example, worry their economy could be out $2.5 million per year if the campground closes. If it’s even half that amount, that’s a big loss for acommunity that’s been struggling economically as much as Morro Bay.

Even more worrisome, there will almost certainly be an increase in vandalism, arson and other crimes at some of the more remote parks on the closure list. And just one large wildfire at an untended state park could quickly wipe out that $22 million in savings.

There’s been speculation that Brown is hoping to drum up support for tax increases on the November ballot by moving forward with the closures. If so, such a cynical move could backfire; jeopardizing communities like Morro Bay that depend on state parks to help drive tourism is hardly the way to win political support.

Besides, aren’t there enough painful examples of cuts that have already occurred in education, senior services, social services and a myriad other programs? Does the governor really need yet another poster child to convince voters that California is in financial trouble?

Bottom line: Closing parks will do far more harm than good. We strongly urge Gov. Brown to reconsider this foolhardy decision.

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