The marathon to reform state parks

I’ve enjoyed watching the Olympics these past three weeks — and not just because it’s hosted in London with a British squad that has surpassed all expectations.  It’s just plain fun to get into obscure sports and watch people at the top of their game run, jump, shoot, dive, cycle, or row their way into the history books. One thing has become clear to me over these weeks, that regardless of whether it is a 10 second sprint or a 2 hour (wow!!) marathon, they are all really marathons in their own rights if you consider the four years worth of work that goes on out of the spotlight to get prepared.

Montgomery Woods State Park. Photo by Peter Buranzon
Montgomery Woods State Park. Photo by Peter Buranzon

The current “event” in the state park crisis has been unfolding as I have watched the Olympics.  Much like the spotlight that shines bright during the gold medal event, all eyes have been focused on the “hidden funds” and other allegations.  The rush is now on to understand what happened, and why, and fix it.   We applaud the Governor’s intention to invest every dollar of the $23 million raised in parks back in the parks to support the partnerships that have been formed, to start to chip away at the deferred maintenance backlog, and to invest in revenue generating projects.  We call on both houses of the legislature to act rapidly and appropriate these funds that were paid by park users.

But once the spotlight moves on, the hard work will really start. If you like, we need to start training for the marathon. The additional $23 million will help around the margins, but still leaves parks vulnerable in the next year’s budget which is just 11 months off.  And beyond that, the underlying problems of parks — chronic underfunding, deferred maintenance, and a leadership and management approach that fails to meet the current challenges  — have taken a generation to build and cannot be fixed overnight.   If it does one thing, the current crisis underscores the need for reform and creates a platform for it to be pursued. I am confident that by the time the world’s attention turns to Rio and the 2016 Olympics, our state parks will look significantly better because of the work the park community is embarking on.  The League will continue to be a leader in this because of our longstanding history with the state park system and because the redwoods we have protected need a strong and vibrant state park system.

I welcome your thoughts about the types of changes you feel are needed to ensure that the future of the redwood state parks.  Also, what event did you get hooked on during the Olympics? For me, it was the hurdles — how they do that so fast I just will never know!

[originally posted on Save the Redwood League “Giant Thoughts” blog, 8/14/2012]

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