State parks director quits as overhaul effort continues

State parks director quits as overhaul effort continues
Anthony Jackson talks with reporters after being sworn in as California's parks director in November 2012. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Anthony Jackson, the former Marine major general who took over California's parks department with a mandate to reform the troubled agency, is leaving after 18 months on the job.

Jackson became the department's director in the wake of an accounting scandal, and he is departing in the middle of an ongoing review of park operations. His last day is June 30.

"It has been a challenging, but ultimately fulfilling tenure at California State Parks," Jackson said in a statement.

Jackson was praised by Natural Resources Secretary John Laird.

"He came to the department during its darkest hour, bringing stability and consistency," Laird said in a statement. "After almost 40 years of public service" -- including 36 years in the Marine Corps -- "he has more than earned the right to retire to private life."

The parks department suffered a black eye in 2012 when it was revealed that officials had hidden millions of dollars at the same time the state was planning to close parks. The director was forced out, and Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Jackson in her place.

Jackson's goal was to restore public confidence in the department while also seeking new funding for more than $1 billion in overdue maintenance work at state parks.

Although Jackson has made assurances that accounting problems are finished, soul-searching over the future of California parks has continued. The Legislature created the Parks Forward commission, which is reviewing department operations and making recommendations for improvement.

Despite some improvements, a draft report from the commission said more changes are still needed.

"Despite years of well-intentioned external reports and internal strategic plans, the Department has not yet been able to achieve the magnitude or scope of change needed," the report said.