State Parks Pay For Themselves – So Why Close Them?

Another day, another example of the economic senselessness that is Arnold’s budget. In this case it’s a major study from Sac State showing that state parks pay for themselves:

A team of researchers at Sacramento State University have released a new research numbers on Monday they say shows that the state parks system more than pays for itself by generating sales tax revenue.

In the face of a $24 billion budget deficit, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting all $150 million in annual general fund money to the parks system. Under the administration’s plan, 220 of the state’s 279 parks would be closed.

That would be a bad move, according to researchers at SSU’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Administration. According to survey results taken from the fall of 2007 through this February, California state parks are visited 75 million times each year.

These visitors, in turn, spend $4.3 billion in “park-related expenditures” each year. This money generates $300 million in sales tax revenue to state government. This includes $122 million in sales tax revenue each year generated by out of state visitors.

“You’ve got 80 percent of the state parks budget being picked up by non-Californians just in the generation of sales tax,” said Dr. Anthony Sheppard, a professor in the Parks and Tourism Department.

We can see this very clearly here on the Central Coast. Monterey County is full of state parks, from Moss Landing State Beach in the north to Point Lobos State Reserve and the extremely popular parks down in Big Sur. Those parks bring tourists here by at least the hundreds of thousands each year. Their tax dollars help keep local government services funded and their spending keeps small, locally owned businesses afloat. The tourist sector is a major source of employment. And this is true across the state, from Humboldt County to San Diego County and including the Central Valley as well.

The Sac State study also found that the state park system gets some of the highest marks from the public for any government agency, and that recent gas price spikes have led to an increase in visits to state parks, at high levels which have been sustained well into 2009.

The state parks cut is yet another sign that there is no logic whatsoever at work here motivating these cuts, unless it is Arnold’s desire to use the crisis as a shock doctrine moment to destroy government services that work and that keep our economy humming. Whether it’s parks, Cal Grants, funding to AIDS patients, or any other major program cut, the cuts are being proposed for their own sake, and not out of anything remotely resembling fiscal responsibility or economic common sense.

9 thoughts on “State Parks Pay For Themselves – So Why Close Them?”

  1. It’s an answer to your post of earlier today: creating will in the body politic.  One way to do that is to shut down popular services.

    Not a nice answer, but a true one.  The upper middle class won’t feel the loss of CalWorks or CalGrants or local public health nurse services.  They will feel it when their nice local state park closes down.

  2. He wants to punish those who disagree with him.  How better to do that?

  3. I am starting to believe that the Gov is willing to close anything (parks, Departments, schools, non-general fund agencies) just so he can say he cut something.  

  4. We certainly gain large amounts of tax revenue from tourists who visit our city’s state beaches. Stupid idea to close them.

  5. “…unless it is Arnold’s desire to use the crisis as a shock doctrine moment to destroy government services…”

    That’s exactly what’s happening, and not just the parks.  Naomi Klein will have plenty of material for a “California” chapter in future editions of The Shock Doctrine.

  6. that the whole idea is to sell or lease the parks to private enterprise and let them run them for profit?  I mean jeez, we’ve privatized… actually FRANCHISED a flipping WAR.  If we can have corporate wars for profit, we can surely have California state parks for profit.  

    Do you really think Arnies fat cat yacht club frriends haven’t been eyeballing all those revenues you’re talking about?


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