Public pressure mounting against proposed state park closures

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By Rebecca Bowe

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced last Thursday that 223 state parks -- about 80 percent of the state’s park system -- could be closed in an attempt to remedy deep budget shortfalls facing the state. In and around the Bay Area, that could mean that Angel Island, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, Mount Tamalpais and twenty-two others could be shuttered due to budget cuts.

Since the news broke, campaigns have been hastily executed to blast the idea in Sacramento. The Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks is staging a rally today at Natural Bridges State Beach, where demonstrators will use a mobile computing station supported by a beach wi-fi hotspot to fire off electronic messages to Schwarzenegger and state legislators in opposition to the plan.

Meanwhile, the Facebook page for the California State Parks Foundation experienced a virtual explosion after the news broke, according to communications director Jerry Emory, with the number of “friends” climbing to around 8,000 from only about 500 before the proposal was announced. The Foundation, which has called the proposal “the worst threat to the park system in its 150 year history,” is urging people to contact state representatives in advance of a June 2 Legislative Budget Conference Committee hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in Sacramento to discuss the cuts.

“We’re just trying to make an impact before tomorrow,” Emory said. Apparently, the foundation’s push has been keeping a few phone lines and fax machines very busy in the state capitol: “We’re getting calls from offices in Sacramento,” he says, “asking us to please stop.”