Since Castle Crags State Park was included on a list of  70 state parks slated for closure next year, park supporters have mobilized for a fight.

Since Castle Crags State Park was included on a list of  70 state parks slated for closure next year, park supporters have mobilized for a fight.

Heidi Horvitz, the State Park superintendent of five north state parks, including Castle Crags, Joss House and Shasta State Historic Parks, said Castle Crags could be gated off as early as September. It will definitely be closed by July 30, 2012, she said.

Though things are dire, Horvitz said she’s searching for local governments or non-profit groups to partner with to keep the park open.

“We’re basically looking for public or private partners to take over operations of the park,” said Horvitz.

Robert Menzies, president of the non-profit Castle Crags Interpretive Association, said the group is not disbanding and will work to keep the park open.

“There will be letter writing campaigns, and we have already gone through the process to move the Association from the park grounds” in order to keep the volunteer-manned store and information center open during the state budget crisis, Menzies said.

At this time, there is one full time maintenance worker at Castle Crags, and Horvitz splits her time between Castle Crags and four other parks. She will lose her job when the parks close.

“This came as a total shock,” Horvitz said. “Parks were never designed to be self sustaining like a library or a school... they’re not a business model. They are a public good, and they help the local economy.”

During the 2008/2009 fiscal year, Castle Crags hosted 64,035 visitors, Horvitz said. The revenue from the park was $115,000. That amount was made through day use permits, which are $8 per vehicle, and campers, who pay $25 a night.

The park offers swimming and fishing in the Sacramento River, hiking in the back country, and an unobstructed view of Mount Shasta. There are 76 developed campsites and six environmental campsites and 28 miles of hiking trails, including a 2.7 mile access trail to Castle Crags Wilderness. The Pacific Crest Trail also passes through the park.

When the park closes, they’ll shut the gates, Horvitz said. There will be no assistance, garbage services or access to water or restrooms.

“It’s part of the state’s reduction plan, and a direct result of the state budget deficit,” Horvitz said.

Menzies said that since the state budget crisis, staffing has been reduced, and Castle Crags has already seen an increase in vandalism, including trees being cut and stolen for firewood and the bathrooms broken into and supplies taken.

State budget cutting
On May 13, the California Department of Parks and Recreation issued a list of 70 of the state’s 278 parks that it recommends be closed to help reduce a $5.4 billion hole in the state’s budget.

The California Parks and Recreation Department will be cutting $11 million this fiscal year and $22 million the next. The cuts are mandated by Assembly Bill 95, which was approved by the legislature and signed by Brown in March.

“We regret closing any park, but with the proposed budget reductions over the next two years, we can no longer afford to operate all parks within the system,” said Ruth Coleman, director of the California State Parks Department in a press release.

Criteria used to decide which parks will remain open and which will close include statewide significance, visitation, fiscal strength, ability to physically close, existing partnerships, infrastructure and use restrictions, according to the release.

Others on the closure list
The plan calls for the closure of 25 percent of California’s State Parks. Other parks in the north state on the closure list include Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Fort Humboldt State Historic Park, Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park, Shasta State Historic Park, South Yuba River State Park, Grizzy Creek Redwoods State Park, Benbow Lake State Recreation Area, Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area, William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park, Westport Union Landing State Beach, Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area, Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, Plumas-Eureka State Park, Russian Gulch State Park, Manchester State park, Greenwood State Beach, Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area, and Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park.

A large majority of the parks slated for closure are situated north of San Jose.

“We are not going to stand by as our state parks system is closed and dismantled,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation. “California’s state park system belongs to the people of California and its existence is critical to the state’s environmental, economic, and civic fabric.  Poor choices made now will forever change the state parks system. When state parks are closed, their natural and cultural resources may suffer such significant harm that it may be impossible to recover these gems later, either because of great cost to correct the deterioration or because the harm is irreparable. Added to that will be a loss of economic opportunities in communities surrounding these parks.”

For more information about state parks and their closures, visit www.savestateparks.org