The bathrooms might be dirtier, and trash may pile up more, but none of California's state parks will be completely closed.
That was the word from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday after he directed his finance officials to help trim the Parks Department budget without closing as many as 100 parks, which had been the plan to help balance the state's troubled budget.
Instead, more parks will have seasonal closures, and more will be closed on weekdays. Which parks are affected by these changes remains unclear, but should be announced soon, said parks spokesman Roy Stearns.
These changes will save $2.1 million this fiscal year.
In addition, ongoing park maintenance will be reduced for the remainder of this fiscal year, and all major equipment purchases will stop. These steps will save $12.1 million.
In total, the new reductions equal the $14.2 million that the governor and Legislature cut from the Parks Department in the 2009-10 fiscal year.
"This is fantastic news for all Californians," the governor said in a statement.
Why these cuts weren't made originally, and why park closures were ever considered at all, were questions of politics that all sides struggled to answer Friday.
"I think he finally got to the point where he said, 'When push comes to shove, let's find solutions,' and he did," Stearns said of the governor's latest fix. "Everybody in our parks department and in the administration hated the idea of closures. I think we had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the point where we could find solutions."
Stearns said a key shift in strategy is that the administration no longer is insisting on an additional $22 million cut to the parks budget next fiscal year and all future years. These additional cuts were a leading reason 100 parks were targeted for closure.
"We came that close," Stearns said, holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart. "Oh yeah, we had a list."
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