Commentary: California's state parks are important to economy

The Sacramento BeeSeptember 2, 2009 

California is cutting aid to the poor, bumping children off health insurance and cramming more kids into its crowded classrooms. But perhaps the most visible sign of the state's sorry financial condition will be the closure later this year of as many as 100 state parks.

In Congress, they call it the "Washington Monument strategy" when federal bureaucrats faced with budget cuts say they would have no choice but to shut down one of the nation's most recognizable historical symbols. It's starting to seem as if this plan to close California parks is something along those same lines.

For starters, the park closures would save only $14 million, or one-twentieth of 1 percent of the $26 billion shortfall the entire budget plan sought to solve. For that relatively tiny amount of money, the state is going to go through, and cause, a tremendous amount of heartache.

But it is not even clear that the plan, which is still in the works, would save that much, and any money it does save will likely be wiped out and then some by the economic effects of the closures.

As The Bee's Matt Weiser reported in Sunday's editions, researchers at California State University, Sacramento, recently completed the largest-ever economic survey of state parks visitors. They questioned more than 9,700 people at 27 parks over 18 months.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.

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