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Initiative to preserve state parks added to Nov. ballot

Posted: June 11, 2010 3:52 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2010 3:52 p.m.

Sacramento, Calif. -- California Secretary of State Debra Bowen qualified the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010 for the Nov. 2 statewide ballot today.

Approval of the state parks initiative will provide California vehicles with free access to state parks, in exchange for a new $18 surcharge. This new surcharge will be assessed as part of California's annual vehicle registration.

All California vehicles will be subject to the surcharge, except larger commercial vehicles, mobile homes and permanent trailers. Funds from the surcharge will be placed in a trust fund for state parks and wildlife conservation.

An estimated $500 million will be generated annually from the trust fund, providing the funding needed to restore, maintain and keep state parks accessible today and for future generations, Californians for State Parks and Wildlife Conservation said.

According to Californians for State Parks and Wildlife Conservation, the measure will provide stable and adequate funding to keep state parks open and free $130 million in state general funds for other initiatives, including education, health care, social services, and public safety.

The campaign submitted more than 760,000 signatures, nearly twice the number required to qualify the measure.

It's early supporters include California Travel Industry Association, California Federation of Teachers, Boy Scouts of America, California State Parks Foundation, Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, Sierra Business Council, California Conference of the NAACP, Public Health Institute, Latino Health Access, Californians for State Parks and Wildlife Conservation said.

"The breadth and depth of support for this initiative is evident across California and among the wide range of individuals and organizations that have endorsed the measure," said Mike Sweeney, executive director of The Nature Conservancy California. "This measure represents the best and most reliable path to keeping our parks and wildlife areas open for the enjoyment of Californians."

 "Budget cuts forced nearly 150 of the state's 278 state parks to close or reduce services last year, and chronic underfunding is forcing the more than $1 billion maintenance backlog to continue to grow," said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation. "This initiative will provide the stable and adequate source of funding needed to keep state parks open and contributing to our economy, the public's health and education."

According to Californians for State Parks and Wildlife Conservation, California's 278 state parks attract millions of tourists, who spend $4.32 billion annually in park-related expenditures, and every dollar spent on state parks creates another $2.35 for California's treasury.

Budget cuts have forced state parks to accumulate a backlog of more than $1 billion in needed maintenance and repairs.

Roofs and sewage systems leak, restrooms are not cleaned regularly, bridges have collapsed, trails are washed out, campgrounds and visitor centers are shuttered and buildings and structures throughout the system are badly deteriorated, Californians for State Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

"Once considered to be among the best in the nation, California's state parks now rank among the most endangered sites in the country," Goldstein said.

Currently, the proposed state budget provides some General Fund money for state parks, but not enough to meet all of the parks' funding needs.

"California's state parks are priceless public assets, and these assets could be lost forever if we don't invest in them," said Ruskin Hartley, executive director of Save the Redwoods League. "Our state parks have been forced to ride a budget rollercoaster, but Californians will have the opportunity this November to vote to stop that sickening ride and ensure that these valuable assets are protected and accessible for future generations."


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