State Parks on the Chopping Block Across the Nation


Photo credit: jay galvin via Flickr/CC BY

The concept of setting aside pristine land, protecting it, and allowing the public to enjoy it -- the very notion of conservation itself -- has been called "America's Best Idea". Before national and state parks were introduced in the United States, the concept hardly existed. But ever since the Republican Teddy Roosevelt created the national parks system, it's been exported all over the world, and for good reason -- everyone should be allowed to enjoy natural beauty. Unfortunately, thanks to the budget crisis, important state parks are being dismantled and shut down across the nation. It's truly a travesty.Here's the New York Times:

budget-strapped state parks across the country are pursuing creative and sometimes controversial solutions simply to stay open. Many are imposing steep new fees, leaning ever more heavily on volunteers and, in one ominous effort to raise money, even pushing to drill for oil and gas beneath hiking trails and picnic pavilions.

The vast majority of states have cut park financing, often significantly, since the economic downturn took full hold in 2008, and some were cutting long before that. Some parks are closing altogether; Gov. Jerry Brown of California in recent days announced plans to permanently close 70 of the state's 278 parks this fall.

That should be something of a blow to the gut. State parks, and the preserved wilderness they encompass, are crucial to the American cultural identity -- they're part of our heritage, our way of life. That we're watching as they're put up on the chopping block for some quick cash to feed ballooning budgets is disgraceful -- and it exemplifies the creeping corporatization of the nation.

Permanently closing state parks offers only a quick fix in terms of budgetary impact -- operating parks are relatively inexpensive in contrast to other state functions, and selling them off will generate comparatively tiny sums that will evaporate before the next budget shortfall rolls around.

So what we're seeing here is a permanent loss of lands once intended for all of the public to use -- now access to parks is becoming too expensive for the poor, or those parks are on their way to being sold off to corporate interests altogether. I'm well aware that California and other states are facing difficult times, and are strapped for cash -- but closing up national treasures like protected wilderness and selling them off is as ugly a solution as I can imagine.

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