By Karen Carlson
On Friday, July 20, there were reports of millions of dollars being found and heads would roll at the state level. This matters a great deal to me as an outdoor enthusiast and state park user and fan.
Amidst the closure of over 70 state park areas across California, including San Pasqual Battlefield, and threats of more closures and reductions in park hours over the past couple of years, public outcry has been vast and loud against the closures. Park staff has been preparing for the worst, workers and rangers are looking for work in case they are laid off due to closures, emails about how to save our parks are numerous and continuous, and organizations have formed to try to help save our state parks.
Last week some $54 million was found “hiding” within the state park coffers and no one apparently knew how or why that could happen. The California State Park Foundation called this “both disturbing and appalling” and in a recent communication stated:
“We are frustrated to learn about these hidden funds during the present state park crisis. We are angry on behalf of our members, our donors, our partners, but most of importantly on behalf of the people of California. Californians have a right to expect honesty from the government systems that serve us and, in this case, the parks department let us all down. We are calling on the next director to work diligently to not only correct this inexcusable situation but also to achieve a culture of openness and transparency that will prevent this from happening in the future.”
California State Park Foundation is an independent nonprofit that works with, but not for, Department of Parks and Recreation. Over the course of investigation (still ongoing) Ruth Coleman, director of the State Department of Parks and Recreation, resigned, and chief deputy Michael Harris was let go amid questions about the underreported funds.
The monies are reported to be “one-time monies” and the Legislature will have to decide what to do with it.
Allegedly surplus money was sat on or underreported for years. More information is expected over the coming weeks.
Is the state funding issue really as bad as they say? I know it’s bad, but I wonder even more now how bad?