11 state parks temporarily out of the woods


California has struck deals to keep 11 state parks open and more reprieves are in the works, whittling the number of parks that will be closed this summer because of budget cuts, officials said Tuesday.

Private donors, foundations and other government entities have come forward with funding or operating agreements to keep the 11 parks open for one to three years, said Roy Stearns, deputy director of California State Parks.

The agency announced last year that the state’s fiscal troubles would force it to shutter 70 of the 278 parks in the system. Most on the closure list are in Northern California and are less visited than parks in the densely populated south.

Of the 11 to remain open, the National Park Service is providing money and staff at three parks that border federal units: Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Samuel P. Taylor and Tomales Bay.

The Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve will remain open under an agreement with the nonprofit Bodie Foundation, which plans to start charging parking fees at the reserve. An anonymous donor is covering the operating costs of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum near Lancaster. And Silicon Valley entrepreneur J. Daniel McCranie is donating most of the $900,000 needed to keep the Bay Area’s Henry W. Coe park open for three years.

Other parks spared for now are the Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area, McGrath State Beach, South Yuba River, Jug Handle State Natural Reserve and Plumas-Eureka.

Stearns said his department is in talks with possible sponsors of 24 other parks and has asked for proposals on an additional 11. Still, he added, “We’re a long way from saying most will stay open this summer.”

Jerry Emory, communications director of the California State Parks Foundation, emphasized that the arrangements were temporary. “We’re not considering these parks saved.... The long-term solution is a sustainable public funding source.”

The system’s operating and maintenance budget has fallen to $110 million for the next fiscal year from $175 million five years ago. Services and staffing have been reduced at all parks, and a budget deal calls for more slashing if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax increases don’t go through.

Thieves have struck one park that was already closed, stealing equipment and breaking into the Mitchell Caverns visitors center at the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area in the Mojave Desert.