Here I go again. As you may recall, I already wrote about this last year...not just once, but twice. I am back again, approaching the same subject, and providing the same solution I offered last year. But, this time it's with unrelenting determination.Our California State Parks are in big financial trouble. I am sure this comes as no surprise to you or anyone else. It has been a rough road for our parks for a number of years.
Last week, a panel of 12 people were selected to be on the newly formed Parks Forward Commission. Their names were announced on August 6 by Resources Agency Secretary John Laird's office and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. According to the Parks Forward Commission website, the purpose of this panel is to “address the financial, operational, cultural, and population challenges facing State Parks to ensure the system’s long-term viability, functionality, and relevance.”The fact is, our state parks are not self-sufficient. The question is, what can we do? Before we consider things like outside help or even something like advertising within our parks, maybe we need to try another approach.
A few things have been done over the years to try to bring in more revenue such as raising fees and putting Prop 21 before the voters in 2010. This proposition would have added $18 fees onto state vehicle registration costs, eliminating the park admission fees for the public, and meeting the park system's financial needs. But, Prop 21 didn't pass, leaving our state and the Parks Forward Commission with the daunting task of trying to find another solution that will work.I believe the answer could be very simple. Are you ready to hear my most shocking plan? Maybe the most shocking thing is that I just don't know when to give up. Nonetheless, here is my crazy idea, again.
LOWER THE ENTRANCE FEES.
Yes. I really did say just that. You may scoff, you may laugh, you may tell me to shut up right now...but, think about it.
Lower the cost of both daily and annual entrance fees so that more people will have access to our parks. Lower them not just a little, but a lot. I say decrease them by 40%-50% and that will give people a big incentive to go. I am willing to bet this would bring a lot more visitors and could actually increase revenue by a large amount, maybe even leading to solvency.
The daily entrance fee to get into many of our more popular state parks and beaches can be as much as $10. I used to buy an annual pass at what I already considered to be a high cost of $125 per year, but last year the annual fee went up to $195. Not only can I not afford that, but I can’t justify that cost in any way, shape or form. Paying these fees are out of reach for many, if not most, people during these hard economic times.
The truth is, even with the higher rates, the park system is still in a crisis. This approach is obviously not working.
Those of us who live close to the parks don't usually plan on spending an entire day there, but maybe an hour or too at a time and can't justify the cost. I am sure I am not alone. I wonder how many other people just gave up because enough is enough?
What do people do instead? They either walk in and avoid the fees, or they choose a free or cheaper county or city park.
Lowering the fees seems like a win/win situation, making the parks self-sufficient while providing access to more people, regardless of their financial situation. Can the answer really be this simple? I challenge the Parks Forward Commission, the CA Department of State Parks, as well as our local representatives, to take a closer look and find out.
Stay tuned. I will present this to the above agencies, and report back here when I hear from them. If you like this idea, or if you have your own brilliant ideas, please contact them as well.
Obviously I can't let this go. I love our California State Parks. We are lucky to have some of the most beautiful places in the world right here at our doorstep.