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Say ‘No’ To Park Cuts

June 14, 2009

221005_redwoodGod has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.                  ~John Muir

I’ve recently stumbled across an extremely distressing article. If you didn’t want to open it (which you should, because it’s important- so open it and read it), it basically says that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed to shut down State Parks as a form of budget relief for the $24.3 billion deficit that California is in. According to his proposal, the Terminator wants to cut all $150 million dollars of park money out of the state budget, and close 220 of the 279 California state parks for at least two years (Click here for a full list of the parks in jeopardy). This obviously is a terrible thing for many reasons. Firstly, shutting down the park instantly releases all personal. Rangers, ecologists, you name it- they’re gone. From an economic viewpoint slashing these jobs would only add to the unemployment of the state. And if they ever did open the parks again trying to reestablish the infrastructure that is already in place would take way too long, and be far too costly. Second, closing the state parks would only accelerate poaching, vandalization, and uncontrolled use of the natural landscape, which is already a problem as is. Lastly, I don’t even think I even have to mention what a travesty it would be to take away the parks from the thousands of hikers, campers, climbers, photographers, bird watchers, et al that inhabit this giant state, not to mention the other thousands of travelers who visit California for their state parks.

Luckily there was an article that was released a few weeks later that showed the parks actually make more than enough money to fund themselves. In an economic study by Dr. Anthony Sheppard, he discovered that over 75 million people come to visit the California state parks each year. According to his research each person spends roughly $24.63 inside the park, and another $33 outside the park on supplies. Grand total on money spent on the parks system: $4.3 billion dollars. Please tell me how cutting $70 million this year, and $150 million dollars next year will save $8.6 billion dollars of state income (maybe I forgot to carry the one…). I find it so depressing and exhausting that everything must be protected by book keepers these days.

So now you’re probably saying to yourself, “But what can I do?” Well, for starters- VISIT YOUR STATE PARKS! And as much as you hate to shell out $10 for a parking ticket- do it. Every dollar you spend on the parks system is a vote to keep that park open. This is true for every park in this nation, state or national.

Second, sign a petition. Here is one I found, but there are numerous online (I’m still doubtful that online petitions hold any voting power, but it doesn’t hurt to write right?).

Lastly, write an old fashioned letter, or call/fax the Kindergarden Cop. Here is his address and phone number just in case it’s not already in your address book:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-558-3160

I can’t tell you how sad it is for me to see an elected official to even consider such an outrageous proposal. Granted the state is in an awful financial state (no pun intended), but I think the United States wilderness is a national treasure- something we should pass down to our children, and one of the things that makes this one of the greatest countries in the world. And if we don’t do more to protect it politicians will act to take it away from us for a dollar. Within the still of nature lies the true essence of man. Too quickly do we forget that we once inhabited those dark forests, were mesmerized by expansive deserts, and feared the looming mountains. Too quickly do we become accustomed to urban dwellings and modern comforts, forgetting the simple pleasure of a sip of cool water on a mountain summit or the satisfaction of sweating from a long days hike. Too quickly do we forget that nature taught us what is is to be human, and not the other way around. I’m a firm believer that nature is good for the soul- it teaches us, replenishes us, and energizes us. If we lose the natural beauty of this world we will lose a fundamental part of ourselves. Like the sage Walt Whitman once said, “Now I see the secret of making the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

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