Op-Ed: Why it matters that 70 state parks are closing

May 3, 2012, 12:10 a.m.

As you’ve strolled in and out of the CoHo for the past few weeks, have you noticed the colorful array of nature-themed photos on the walls? As part of our campaign to raise awareness of the imminent closure of state parks in California, Students for a Sustainable Stanford organized a State Parks Photo Contest. We’ve printed and displayed the stunning images and equally moving personal stories submitted by the Stanford community, each of which draws us willingly into the majestic mountains, forests and ocean of California. It is such a pity that the possibility of creating new memories like these is now at risk.

Seventy parks are due to be closed this summer. California State Parks, the government agency in charge under the California Department of Parks and Recreation, explains that the closures are due to a $22 million budget shortfall. Exactly what does this mean? The simple answer is that nobody really knows. Administratively, services like public bathrooms, parking lots and park ranger patrols will be pulled. Museums and interpretive hikes will no longer take place. But, if you care to duck under the ‘CLOSED’ signs, maneuver around the ‘CLOSED’ banners or hop nimbly over the locked gates, you can still explore and access these areas of beauty.

Is it really so bad that we’re closing our state parks then? We of Students for a Sustainable Stanford are afraid that the answer is yes. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what will happen when these parks are no longer protected or managed. Never before have parks been closed in times of recession, and park management boards will lose a source of revenue in visitor spending. According to the Save Our State Parks campaign, every $1 invested in the state park system returns $2.35 to the state’s General Fund by boosting local business income and customer streams. More importantly, the closure of the state parks is a clear statement of the priorities of our government leaders. It sets a precedent that may threaten the continued existence of these precious natural resources in California.

California’s budget crisis is occurring in a larger, complex context, and difficult decisions are being made in various other sectors and social services in our state. But it is clear that the closure of state parks does more long-term, indirect harm than it does short-term good in terms of cost savings, and so we of Students for a Sustainable Stanford oppose and caution against the impending closures.

In addition to planning the display in the CoHo (that you should check out pronto), we organized a field trip last quarter to Castle Rock State Park, one of the parks slated for closure. We’re ramping our campaign up in the next few weeks. Noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, May 4, we’ll be tabling in White Plaza; come hang out with us and let’s have a discussion! Next week, we’ll be showing a short documentary, “The First 70,” about state park closure in California. We’ll also be organizing a talk by Reed Holderman, executive director of The Sempevirens Fund that has decided to adopt Castle Rock and keep it open. Sometime Memorial Day weekend, we’ll visit Castle Rock to see it for ourselves, and we want you to come with us. More information and updates will be posted on our website.

Help us save our state parks, please.


Judee Burr ’12

Vice President of Outreach, Students for a Sustainable Stanford


Sharon Tan ’14

Outreach Coordinator, Students for a Sustainable Stanford

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