Suzann M. Leininger
The sunset across from the Palomar Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, evening of Dec 10, 2010.
It’s official: Palomar State Mountain Park will remain open despite facing a possible closure because of budget cuts.
Local group, the Friends of Palomar State Mountain Park, was the driving force behind the proposal to keep the park open through donations. The Friends were able to raise $77,000 – enough to keep the park open for a year.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that nearly a quarter of all state parks would have to close because of budgetary constrictions. But on Monday, California Director of State Parks Ruth Coleman signed a proposal, which will allow the Palomar State Mountain Park to remain open as long as the Friends group can close the deficit between the park's revenue and expenses.
Now, the park will depend solely on donations.
While the group is happy to keep the Palomar State Mountain Park open, their job isn’t finished yet. The ultimate goal of the Friends is to fundraise up to $180,000 in order to keep the park open for three years.
After that? It’s up in the air.
“Once we get the agreement finalized, we’ll keep pushing for people to donate for the future,” said Rick Barclay, president of the Friends of Palomar State Mountain Park. “But the pressure isn’t off. This is just the beginning…all we’ve done is kept the park off the chopping block.”
Barclay said in order to reach $180,000 they’re taking a three-pronged approach. They’ll apply for grants, encourage professional partnerships and reach out to donors to earn enough to maintain a park staff.
But how long will the Friends have to keep it up? That’s relatively unknown. The state could eventually fund the 70 parks that will be shutting down as of July 1, but no one knows if that money will reappear.
In the meantime, Barclay said he’s just happy the park can stay open for now.
“If we do continue to be successful, I’m content to do this with the new program,” he said.
In the past, the money collected from day use fees would go back to Sacramento and be redistributed to parks throughout the state. But now, since Palomar State Mountain Park is donor-operated, all the proceeds will solely benefit this park.
This means the Friends can bring back some of the park aids that were let go in October, and any income gained can be used to restoring neglected areas.
“There’s never enough money to improve everything,” Barclay said. “There will always be a need.”