As the new fiscal year approaches, one quarter of California's state parks will begin locking their gates.
Mendocino County holds the less-than-coveted first place spot on the list of park closures with eight. Los Angeles and Sonoma counties are each losing five parks.
While those counties will retain some of their state parks despite the budget crisis, Plumas County is losing everything -- it only has one state park, Plumas-Eureka State Park (see pink marker on map).
Most of the closing parks are concentrated on the coast, specifically the central portion. They were selected according to their popularity, revenue potential, and ecological and recreational diversity, said Roy Stearns, deputy director of communication for the state parks department.
A $22 million budget cut will halt maintenance and eliminate staffing at 70 of California's 278 state parks, but officials are still working out the logistics, Stearns said.
It may be illegal to close some of the parks, because they receive federal funding under the condition that they remain open or if closed, a park of equal size be opened nearby.
Sixteen parks listed to close receive this funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses royalties collected from offshore drilling to buy parklands.
Since this is the first time in California history the state has closed parks, the department has not decided how they are going to treat this legal obligation.
"We need to define what closed means," Stearns said. "Does it mean we're open weekends or special occasions? If we leave the gate unlocked but do not maintain the park, is that still open?"
The confusion will affect an estimated 65 - 85 million annual visitors to California's state parks. Compare that to Disneyland's approximate yearly attendance of 25 million people.
"The state parks are one of California's single largest destinations for vacationers and tourists," Stearns said.
He added that the parks are a great deal for the state and local businesses, earning about $300 million, while only receiving, in the new budget, $99 million to maintain the natural attractions.
View State Park Closures in a larger map
Non-blue markers highlight counties losing highest number of parks:
- Mendocino County (yellow) is losing 8 state parks.
- Sonoma (teal) and Los Angeles (red) counties are losing 5 parks each.
- Plumas County (pink) is losing it's one and only state park.
Click on individual markers to view the name and location of the sites slated to close.