Closing State Parks Hits Federal Snag

Grant money acts as a federal contract, some assert.

By The Associated Press
|  Monday, May 30, 2011  |  Updated 3:35 PM PDT
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Closing State Parks Hits Federal Snag

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Many parks, like the one on Alcatraz, are granted to federal operational moneys. If the state shuts down parks, it's unclear how those grants will be impacted.

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The state's current plan to close 70 of California's 278 state parks to help bridge the state's budget gap has hit a snag.

Sixteen of the parks targeted for closure receive federal funding under the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which collects royalties from offshore drilling to buy parklands and wildlife refuges, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

But the fund requires state parks that have received the funds to remain open or, if closed, that a park of equal size is opened nearby.

Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., said the funding is a grant to the state, and operates like a contract.

"It is linked directly to the deed of these lands. It says the state makes a commitment to provide these places for public use in perpetuity. To not do that is essentially a breach of that contract," Jarvis said.

State parks officials have announced that the $33 million in budget cuts passed by the Legislature in March would force the state to close about a quarter of its 278 parks, beaches and historic areas around the state as of July 2012.

While 11 state parks are also on the closure list, the California Coastal Commission has also said park rangers cannot block anyone from accessing the shoreline, presenting officials with another problem to solve.

California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman says the matter is a legitimate issue the state will have to work through as it implements its closure plans.

If the state were to close parks that had received the federal grants, the National Park Service could declare the state ineligible for future funding under the law.

Some of the parks that have received conservation fund money include Castle Rock State Park in Santa Clara County; Salton Sea State Recreation Area in Southern California; Twin Lakes State Beach in Santa Cruz; Portola Redwoods in San Mateo County; Candlestick Point near San Francisco; Limekiln in Big Sur and Salton Sea State Recreation Area in Southern California.

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