SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 10 /PRNewswire/ -- California Secretary of State Debra Bowen today qualified the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010, a measure that will provide a stable and adequate funding source to keep state parks open, for the Nov. 2 statewide ballot. With passage of the initiative, not only will state parks have a long-term funding solution, but also important General Fund dollars will be made available for other vital needs.
A wide-ranging coalition that includes business, public health, education, labor, entertainment, public safety, Latino, conservation and environmental interests already support the November state parks initiative. The campaign submitted more than 760,000 signatures, nearly twice the number required to qualify the measure.
"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."
"Once considered to be among the best in the nation, California's state parks now rank among the most endangered sites in the country," said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation. "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. 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."
State parks play an important role in strengthening California's economy. Annually, California's 278 state parks attract millions of tourists, who spend $4.32 billion annually in park-related expenditures. In fact, Visitors generate so much local economic activity that 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. Currently, the proposed state budget provides some General Fund money for state parks, but it is still insufficient to address the ongoing funding needs of the system. Without the long-term solution offered by the state parks initiative, state parks will continue to slowly starve from underfunding.
In addition to providing a reliable funding stream for state parks, through the initiative more than $130 million in state General Fund dollars - that have historically provided a portion of overall state parks funding - will now be available for other vital needs, like schools, health care, social services or public safety.
"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."
Approval of the state parks initiative will provide California vehicles with free, year-round day-use 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 dedicated specifically to state parks and wildlife conservation, which cannot legally be used for other purposes. Approximately $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.
"State parks are important to Californians and are an important tool in strengthening the state's economy," said Graham Chisholm, executive director of Audubon California. "The strong endorsements we have received from bi-partisan leaders in the business, education, public health, entertainment, conservation and environmental communities are testament to the value and importance of our state parks."
Since launching qualification efforts, the campaign has had strong, early support from a group of broad and diverse organizations and leaders throughout the state. To see what other groups and leaders have to say about the initiative, please visit http://yesforstateparks.com/news/press-releases/151-what-others-are-saying-about-the-state-parks-initiative. Early supporters include the California Travel Industry Association, The Nature Conservancy, California Federation of Teachers, Boy Scouts of America, AFSCME California PEOPLE, CA/NV Conference of Operating Engineers, California State Parks Foundation, Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, Sierra Business Council, California Conference of the NAACP, Save the Redwoods League, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Public Health Institute, Latino Health Access, Audubon California, California Public Health Association – North, California Action for Healthy Kids, The Children's Nature Institute, California Lodging Industry Association, Santa Barbara County Film Office, California Young Democrats, Republicans for Environmental Protection – California Chapter, California State Lifeguard Association, California State Park Rangers Association, GrayBears – Retired California State Park Professionals, Peninsula Open Space Trust, Surfrider Foundation, The Trust for Public Land, William C. Velasquez Institute, Anahuak Youth Sports Association and Wildlands Conservancy. For a full list of supporters, please click here.
To learn more about the initiative, please visit www.YesForStateParks.com.
The California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010 was developed by a statewide coalition of interests committed to protecting state parks and natural resources. California's 278 state parks are priceless public assets, important economic engines and a vital legacy for our children and grandchildren. However, persistent budget cuts are starving state parks, causing them to fall severely behind in needed maintenance and repairs. The measure will establish a dedicated and reliable funding stream for state parks and natural resources to ensure they can be enjoyed for generations to come. For more information and to see a complete list of supporters, visit www.YesForStateParks.com.
SOURCE Californians for State Parks and Wildlife Conservation