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Nonprofit Grants, Bipartisan Legislation Seek to Help Keep State Parks Open

The California State Parks Foundation plans to award grants to 13 nonprofits committed to funding park maintenance and operating costs, while a widely supported bill co-authored by Marin's state Assemblyman Jared Huffman moves forward.

 

As the July 1 deadline for looms on the horizon, a number of efforts to stave off those closures are coming to a head.

The California State Parks Foundation announced today that it will award grants totaling $328,586 to 13 nonprofit organizations that have committed to funding the maintenance and operating costs of state parks.

“We are pleased to announce these grants as part of our integrated effort to help keep these threatened parks open,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, the foundation's president, in a statement.

The grants support a growing movement towards public-private partnership as a way to keep the cash-strapped California parks open. Though 70 state parks were originally slated for closure by July 1, 2012, private donors, nonprofits local governments and legislation have allowed many parks to stay the process.

The Marin State Parks Association is one of the recipients of the new grant on behalf of the Friends of China Camp, an organization founded in 2011 that has raised $180,000 of its $250,000 goal to date in an effort to save China Camp from closure.

“The CSPF grant fills a critical need for capital improvements which not only will improve the experience of park users, but increase revenues to support the operation of the park,” said Friends of China Camp Chairperson Ernest Chung.

has submitted a proposal to the state to become the operator of the park after July 1, the scheduled closure date. 

See the full list of grantees here.

in Novato continue, while the earlier this year to stave off closure for Samuel P. Taylor and Tomales Bay state parks, both of which are adjacent to NPS land.

As the efforts of nonprofit organizations throughout the state move forward, legislation that proposes both long and short-term strategies for keeping open many of the state parks slated for closure garnered broad bipartisan support this week. 

AB 1589, co-authored by Marin state Assemblyman Jared Huffman, calls on the Department of Parks & Recreation to develop a prioritized action plan to increase revenues and collection of unpaid user fees at state parks, while maintaining the character and values of the state park system. It also creates a State Park Enterprise Fund and states legislative intent regarding the need for a multi-disciplinary independent assessment of ways to ensure long-term management and sustainable funding options for state parks.

The bill includes provisions that authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to offer special fee-based state park license plates to support the park system and allow taxpayers to redirect portions of their tax refunds to the California State Parks Protection Fund in exchange for an annual state park day-use access pass.

In touting the bill's bipartisan support this week at a press conference, legislators were joined by Robert Hanna, a direct descendant of renowned naturalist John Muir, who emphasized the cultural and economic significance of California’s state parks.

“In every great accomplishment you’ll find togetherness, and I’m proud to stand in solidarity with California’s elected officials to fight for our parks," Hanna said. "I’ll forever continue my family’s commitment to protect these treasures and will continue to fight the good fight."

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