That was a political decision.
I called state Parks Director Ruth Coleman. Legally, she can't advocate Prop. 21's passage. But she'd love the stable source of revenue the initiative would produce.
There's a backlog of $1.3 billion in deferred maintenance, she says. It includes leaking roofs, rotting water pipes, broken fences, eroded trails....
"We do a lot to hide it," she adds. "If a bathroom is nonfunctioning, we put a lock on it. We were locking every other bathroom on the beaches."
Coleman is one parks director who actually camps regularly and personally inspects the facilities and staffing.
"I was camping at El Capitan State Beach in Santa Barbara County and saw a ranger during the evening," she recalls. "I asked her how many rangers there were. She said, 'I'm the only one. The only one for El Capitan, Refugio and Gaviota.'
"They're a few miles apart. The parks were full, maybe 3,000 people. I said, 'I hope nothing goes wrong.' Anything that goes wrong in a city can go wrong in a campground."
She'd like to hire more rangers as well as arrest the decay.
But, I ask myself, why shouldn't revenue raising be a decision for the governor and the Legislature? They're the ones who should be creating surcharges to fund parks. That's their responsibility.
Then I remembered it's politically inconceivable. That would require a two-thirds legislative vote. And Republicans have pledged to vote against anything that smacks of a tax hike.
If the Legislature's two-thirds rule for tax increases ever gets dumped, then I'll fret more about a majority of the people voting to tax themselves.
In an ideal world, Sacramento would salvage the parks. But it's incapable. So the public has an opportunity with Prop. 21.