Commentary: State parks must be kept open

California may have to rewrite its "Official Visitors Guide 2009." It invites people to visit redwoods, sea coast, mountains and historic sites in the most diverse state park system in the world.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating all general fund support for state parks beginning in July 2010. That would result in 223 of 279 state parks closing.

Since the parks charge fees, closing most state parks also would mean losing about $100 million of $125 million a year that state parks currently collect from the public and concession operators.

The Schwarzenegger administration seems to believe that you can simply shut the gates and reopen them "when the budget improves." They're in la-la land. Closed parks will go feral – expect graffiti, fires, illegal camping, dumping and crime.

Further, the Schwarzenegger administration believes that closing parks would not have a significant economic impact statewide, because people will spend their recreational dollars elsewhere. That's true as far as it goes.

But particular communities would suffer disproportionate impact. For example, in Toulumne County, Railtown 1897 accounts for an estimated $15 million in tourism revenue. Closing that park would save the state $300,000 a year, but would devastate local businesses.

In Sacramento, the Downtown Partnership and the Convention and Visitors Bureau believe that closing Sutter's Fort, the State Capitol Museum, the Governor's Mansion, the Stanford Mansion and the State Indian Museum would have a huge impact on tourism.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.