After Clint Eastwood learned last week that his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger no longer wanted him on the state parks commission, he spoke with Bobby Shriver, the governor’s brother-in-law, who had also been dropped. Somewhat incredulous, they joked about it, each saying the other should be more offended.
“I talked to him the day we were not reappointed, or as Donald Trump would say, ‘You’re fired,’ ” Eastwood said in an interview, his gravelly impression of Schwarzenegger’s Austrian accent producing a kind of Dirty Harry-meets-the Terminator effect.
“So we laughed about it,” Eastwood said, “and I said, ‘Me? But you’re his brother-in-law!’ and he said, ‘But you’re his friend and longtime mentor!’ ”
The governor has said that he decided not to reappoint the men, who were first named to the Park and Recreation Commission in 2001 by then-Gov. Gray Davis and reappointed by Schwarzenegger in 2004. He said their terms had expired and he wanted to give others a chance to serve.
But Eastwood and Shriver have attributed the governor’s move to their opposition to a plan to build the Foothill South toll road through San Onofre State Beach, a park in Orange County that is popular for its surfing and scenery. The project was defeated by the California Coastal Commission in February.
“I think it was just somebody got a bee under their bonnet at the right moment, so there we are,” Eastwood said. Of the governor, he added: “I guess he felt we were going to be guys who were going to be obstructionists for anything through state parks.”
Schwarzenegger declined to be interviewed Tuesday. He and other supporters say the six-lane toll road, which would have run past the Trestles marine estuary, would have relieved traffic in Orange County. The governor also asserted that it would have reduced global warming.
Eastwood seemed at peace with last week’s events. He said there are no hard feelings between him and Schwarzenegger, 60, a fellow Republican and “a friend of mine for a very long time.”
But he seemed perplexed because his opposition to the road predated by more than two years the governor’s endorsement of it in January. He said that he told Schwarzenegger long ago of his reservations and that the governor urged him to follow his conscience.
“You’re not going to get people who are interested in state parks who want to build freeways through state parks,” Eastwood said. “So I don’t know what the big surprise was there.”
Several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Surfrider Foundation and the California State Parks Foundation, said they submitted a letter to state Senate leaders Tuesday requesting a hearing into the oversight of state parks. They based their request on Schwarzenegger’s treatment of the two commissioners, his proposal to close 48 parks because of the state’s fiscal crisis and his support for development in parks.
“It is difficult to recall any time in California’s history when our world-class system of parks has been more at risk from a range of threats,” says the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Times. The governor’s office said he has backed billions of dollars in spending to protect and preserve parkland.
Eastwood, 77, the former mayor of Carmel, has advocated for parks under four governors in both political parties, starting with George Deukmejian. He has made public service announcements and appearances, including one created by environmental groups opposing the toll road. In that clip, he spoke of surfing at San Onofre with James Arness of “Gunsmoke” fame and guys with nicknames like “Hammerhead,” after he arrived in Los Angeles as a young man in the 1950s, before surfing was a craze.
Eastwood, who refers to himself as a conservationist, said he is by no means obstructionist. Though he agreed with the Coastal Commission on the toll road, he clashed with that board as recently as 2006, when it rejected a golf course and housing development that he and business partners had proposed at Pebble Beach, near his home in Monterey County. Adversaries in that fight praise his work for parks.
“From everything I saw, he was a terrific parks commissioner,” said Peter Douglas, the Coastal Commission’s executive director. “It just happened that when he was calling the shots on that project at Pebble Beach, he wasn’t listening to what we were saying about what the law allows and doesn’t allow. But that’s behind us now.”
Mark Massara, director of the Sierra Club’s coastal programs, fought Eastwood on the Pebble Beach project and worked with him against the toll road. “He has a reverence for open space and public property,” Massara said. “It’s deep and abiding and sincere.”
Although Eastwood said he first learned that he would not be reappointed from one of the governor’s aides, Schwarzenegger called later and apologized that the situation had played out as it did. Eastwood said he told Schwarzenegger not to worry about it.
“I’m a grown person,” Eastwood said. “I’m not a kid.”
“The parks is a voluntary job, and it’s just a job you do, when they need you. It was fun. . . . They make changes, and that’s their prerogative. It’s not like I need a day job.”