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Park your opinion here on state parks

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The campaigning has started early for Proposition 21, the state parks initiative, and why not? This is the season when people swarm to the state beaches, hit the trails and set up their tents and RVs in the parks' campgrounds. This is also the summer when a date for two at a movie matinee can cost less than dropping by a public park. (OK, not including the hideously priced popcorn.) Daily parking at Crystal Cove State Beach, for example, costs $15 after the state's fiscal crisis forced higher fees.

That's not to mention the reduced services at the parks and the backlog of maintenance.

Those will be among the issues for the editorial board to consider as it examines Proposition 21, which would impose an additional $18 annual fee on non-commercial vehicles to raise money for California state parks. In exchange, the public would be given free access, all year long, to those parks.

But the public schools, Cal State University and University of California are all hurting too. Why no vehicle registration fee for them? Or for the state's children who need medical care but whose parents can't afford or get health insurance? Libraries, home health services ... if state funding is involved, you can pretty much count on a program in distress.

Should state initiatives pick off individual needs with individual funding sources? That's something the Times editorial board has seldom endorsed, but these are uncommon times.

And would this added fee be worthwhile to you? How often do you visit the state's parks? Which ones? And how often would you go if it were free?

-- Karin Klein


Comments () | Archives (78)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Amy H.

The added fee is worthwhile to me. I visit state parks regularly, most often the state beaches.

My childhood included many days and bonfires at state beaches, and I want to preserve access to those potential memories for today's and tomorrow's children. That impulse doesn't stem from being a parent -- I'm not a parent and don't anticipate becoming one -- but from the knowledge that we need to preserve lands and facilities for outdoor use and enjoyment for the next generations.

As a birder, I feel an additional desire to conserve land in a natural or semi-natural state for the sake of wildlife and our limited access to them. State parks aid that goal.


I am completely and 100% behind this fee. While there are plenty of other state funded projects that need money. The closure of state parks has been by far the most vocal and obvious. Yes, schools are in trouble but how many of them are being threatened with closure? I for one love the state park system. My favorite park is Prairie Creek. I've been going there my whole life. I also grew up right next to Lake Oroville State Park and several other state parks. I love going to state parks and would fear for what would happen to them if they were no longer supported by the state. Sadly these days I'm not able to go to any state parks but through my twenty five years I have been to many.

One addition to the fee I would add, if I were able to control such things would be the allowance for visitors to aid with maintenance. Have one day, or one weekend where locals and those that love the parks can come in and help with the maintenance. I certainly would be all for giving my days to state parks to keep them beautiful for others.


I think adding a fee to the DMV is a good idea. Most people who visit parks do so in cars, so it's fair to assess park fees with those who use them most via the DMV. Too many people use the parks and pay nothing hoping they won't get caught and since parks are understaffed they usually get away with it, while others pay the $125.00 yearly pass. It's not fair.


I think as long as the money isn't siphoned into the "general fund" or mishandled, it is a great idea. I love our parks and the state of disrepair is sad. I like the idea of paying for a pass when I register my car and have it be across the board for all. Maybe it will get more to visit the parks?


I rarely use the parks, have several kids in CA public schools, and one heading to the UC system. Yet I am 100% behind this small fee, which amounts to just $1.50 a month. Why? California's state parks and beaches are not just for nature lovers, and it's extremely short-sided to think this proposition only serves that population. State parks contain some of our state's most rich historical treasures--just look at Sutter's Fort, Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park, Antelope Valley California Poppy State Natural Reserve, and many more. As Californians, we have a DUTY to preserve our history and heritage for generations to come, whether we visit parks daily or not at all. I am happy to pay my very small share so that California history lives on not just in textbooks, but in full glory for the children of tomorrow.

Richard R.

In recent years, our CA State Parks have been forced to increase use fees in order to off-set the loss of General Fund (tax based) funds. The visionaries of our Federal and State park systems believed that parks were meant to be special places for the common man/woman to enjoy nature, to re-create and to escape the pressures of urban life. As use fees increase, more and more people are unable to enjoy them -- chosing instead to spend their limited funds on basic life needs.

While not a panacea for all of our State's fiscal woes, Prop 21 gives us hope that our State Beaches & Parks, Historic Sites and Recreational areas will survive, thrive and hopefully -- remain preserved and accessible for generations of Californians and our State's visitors to enjoy.

Vaughn Filer

I am a volunteer at Petaluma Adobe and the Sonoma Mission, we provide so much for the public but volunteers can't do it alone. This is a small fee to take care of a small part of California's problem budget and it employees so many people to keep our parks open and available for the public. We provide education and appreciation for all of the things in our parks.

Lela N

With the state budgeting process in total disfunction as it has been for many years now, it seems to me that Prop 21 is a very sensible answer for state park funding. Parks are a long term investment, a committment to our children, and should not be held hostage to the asinine, short term political games going on in Sac, nor should they be allowed to deteriorate beyond repair as is happening now. I fully support Prop 21 and recommend it to every voter.


I think this is a great idea that will allow our state parks to remain open and maintained not just for Californians, but for all visitors to our great state. As for asking if the vehicle registration tax should be utilized for state parks, instead of colleges or medical care for state children, it is a moot point as neither of those initiatives exist today and therefore not in contention. An annual eighteen dollar fee is an absolutely reasonable solution to providing unlimited access to state parks that would otherwise be closed or not maintained.

Richard Rothman

The tax should be base on the value of the car not a flat tax. This is not a fair tax on the low income people.


I work for California State Parks and believe it is our obligation to protect and preserve them for future generations. The $18 is essentially a user fee because drivers who pay it along with their noncommercial license plate registrations will then be allowed to enter California State Parks for free. Currently the annual pass is $150. So this is a savings. It will also give the parks a reliable annual income, not at the whims of politicians. If passed, California State Parks will no longer use money from the general fund...money that can then be allocated to universities, schools, children who need medical care, libraries, home health services, etc. A vote for Proposition 21 is a win-win and I hope your editorial board will agree. Thank you.


I would support this fee and like the idea of the pass (which would save money for our family). With my toddlers and also by myself, I regularly visit state parks including the beautiful Torrey Pines Reserve (on a weekly basis). I agree that this would be a great long-term investment to help preserve our state parks.


I think with have an obligation to preserve history and nature for future generations. This is a small cost to pay to have a place for kids to go explore nature, see wildlife, and appreciate all life.

Mary Zimmer

I am happy to pay a standard fee to keep parks open, but would also like to keep usage fees for people with RV, boat, additional cars in tow, jet skis, etc. Maybe just make the base fee absorbed by the standardized fee so backpackers with tents go free. Either way, for California, our parks and tourism are some of the best our state has to offer. We need to keep our parks staffed and open and protect our valued lands. I do enjoy the beach parking fees because on busy tourist days, the pay parking at the state parks is the only way you can get a parking space after 10am. Now it has gone from $5 to $10 which leaves many available spaces to those who are willing to pay for convenience. Without those pay lots, locals would have to walk to the beach every time because we'd never find parking in our own town!

Debra  J. Rigas

I visit the state parks often. They're not only peaceful, inspiring getaways from the challenging rat race in LA or San Francisco or Sac - they are vital to keeping some component of our natural world intact. For us, the children and, in my opinion, for sanity on a planet where those 'in power' seem to have lost track of what's important for all people. So much land is being bought up and lost to 'development' and this tiny price to help is about what a couple pays in two trips to the local coffee shop for drinks and pastries. So many important causes need our backing, sure, and this is one of them. I have visited more parks than I can count over the years, often camping or beach combing. Here's a recent article: http://www.livestrong.com/article/169514-camping-in-humboldt-county/

Thank you for helping keep the parks intact. The fee is worth it.

Chuck M

Continued reliance on General Fund support for State Parks is a recipe for disaster. We've all witnessed first hand what happens when even a few million dollars are cut from the budget for Parks: reduced staff, reduced hours, and severely reduced maintenance.

$18 to keep our State Parks whole and protected is a deal in itself. Throw in unlimited day use access year round, and this goes from a deal to a steal. Prop 21 warrants support from everyone who wishes to ensure our tourism economy remains vibrant and our children always have a place to visit and explore the Golden State's natural wonders.


What a deal! Based on the savings alone, this is a worthy proposition. It will provide Californians unlimited daytime access to parks for practically the same amount as individual parking for one or two park visits. Aside from that, the parks desperately need the funds to keep California's natural and historic sites beautiful, safe and protected. Our parks are one of California's most unique and treasured assets. We need to keep it that way!

Irene Ujda

Keeping state parks healthly and alive is crucial to maintaining our state's identity as a welcome tourist destination; we must also treasure our historical sites as our common cultural heritage as well as being public recreational facilities, and keep them accessible to everyone, and preserve them for future generations.

Flossie Horgan

I totally support Prop21.
I live in Huntington Beach, and Bolsa Chica State BEach is located nearby. With the down economy many of us have to cut back on our vacation plans and are staying close to home. A day trip to the beach in southern California is a wonderful get away. If Prop 21 passes it will be free for day use at all State Parks including the State Beaches. That is the main reason I support Prop 21.

Connie Boardman

I would gladly pay this additional fee to help fund our State Parks. Besides providing great recreational opportunities for the people of California, State parks provide valuable wildlife habitat. The State Park budget has been slashed in recent years, so our parks have declined. This nominal fee will allow us to get into parks for free, while at the same time provide a stable funding source to protect these wonderful resources.


I go to State Parks several times a year, including Carpinteria State Beach, El Capitan State Beach, and Gaviota State Park. The condition of the parks is deteriorating due to insufficient maintenance funding. We can't allow this to continue! If the parks depend on state general funds their funding will be reduced every year and a terrific public treasure will be severely degraded. An $18 per year vehicle license fee addition is a small price to pay to restore the funding for our state parks!

Heather Butler

I think it is an excellent idea to pay a fee to the DMV that will let all Californians into all our state parks all year long. I visit Seacliff State Beach, Natural Bridges State Park and Nisene Marks State Park weekly, for fishing, enjoying with my family, and for work, teaching kids about science and the environment, and it is extremely important that these public places remain well stewarded and protected for future generations of Californians. It is also fair that those of us who can afford to drive can afford to pay a fee that will let all Californians enjoy the parks. Being in the outdoors is a healthy step for all people, but especially for kids, and having a safe, well-cared for state park to play, learn and grow in will remain invaluable. Please support the state parks initiative.

Josh H.

Of course I hate fees that don't make sense like anybody else, but the closing of state parks in my opinion, is to destroy the very essence of California. Let this one go thru please.

Leona M. Butts

I support Prop. 21. Our parks are very much a part of the educational process for all who visit the parks. The parks fill a niche that schools no longer can handle. They are a safe haven for people of all ages. Without Prop. 21 I am afraid they will fall into disrepair and no longer serve the people of California. Many people do not realize how many visitors from outside the US spend time in our parks. Let's keep our parks a showplace for our state by supporting Prop. 21.


It would definitely be worthwhile to me. And I think implementing a fee such as this might make it worthwhile to others by encouraging them to take advantage of our parks. Californians are lucky to have so many natural resources and landscapes at their fingertips. More appreciation for these resources is part of what being an American is about and I support (most) any effort to cultivate value of our natural resources.


The least that car-centered California can do is tax its drivers a bit more to keep the state parks open and maintained. Individual funding sources like this may not be the answer for all of the state's budgetary problems (and they are many), but the benefits to taxpayers as a whole are more than the annual cost, and the tax will provide a steady stream of dollars that cannot be touched by other hungry sources. Other programs may need funding as well, but the environment seems to take a backseat to human needs more often than not. Let's pay the $18 annually to help preserve a small part of what's left of the world that we haven't completely trampled on yet.

Walter Hays

I am president of the Waddell Creek Association, which works with State Parks in interpreting the coastal end of Big basin Redwoods State Park. From that vantage point, I can see clearly how our existing parks suffer from lack of funds for maintenance, to the point where the State won't even accept gifts of new parkland because they can't manage them. Prop. 21 would provide a permanent solution to those problems, make parks more accessible to low-income groups, and free up general fund money for other priorities.

Please endorse it!


Walt Hays

Steve W.

I wholeheartedly support this fee. It's a small price to pay to preserve and protect our natural and historical heritage. I'm a frequent visitor to the state parks, particularly the beaches, and it's a shame how badly they've been allowed to deteriorate (despite the great work done by the truly dedicated park staff) due to the budget cuts brought on by the state's horrible economic policies and political games.

Carrie Thomas

Yes, I support Prop 21 for many reasons. What a bargain at $1.50 per month for unlimited access to any State park in California...a no brainer! People pay more than that in day for junk food; I think it's affordable by all. The money raised should be utilized ONLY for state park purposes. We are blessed to have these open spaces to enjoy...a benefit to all Americans and others who visit - any class of people, rich or poor. An equal opportunity benefit to all. We cherish our beautiful state parks and beaches - children learn from the wildlife, plants and environment. RVs and other utility vehicles should pay a higher fee, but $18 per year is amazingly inexpensive for the benefits. We pay $150 now for our pass to Bolsa Chica State Beach, so $18 is a huge savings for my family.

Carter McCoy

This is a great proposal to keep our states natural heritage safe for future generations. All too often park budgets are cut or parks themselves threatened by development and short term objectives. These are not our parks, but our children's children's parks and we need to keep them safe!

Mary G

Prop 21 is needed on so many levels. We have an obligation to the generations who came before and those to come to preserve these parks for recreation, relaxation, education, preservation and to keep our vital connection to the natural world. In exchange for a measly $18/year we get day use of the entire system. But what about the argument that not everyone uses parks? Whether you are literally in a State Park or not, you benefit from them. State Parks generates over 4 billion a year in tax revenue, and in our local area alone, it generates over $104 million. As one business put it, "If the parks close, this town closes." Everyone benefits from the economic engine provided by State Parks. This is the best solution to date to get State Parks off the General Fund political roller coaster. Very much yes for Prop 21.

Julie Camell

We must save our State Parks! They provide one of the most affordable recreation opportunities for the diverse population of our state! Yes, I would gladly pay a fee to ensure that the parks stay open and that maintenance on the parks continues. Our state has so many beautiful state parks that visitors from all over the world come to visit because of them. They are vital to our tourist industry. But more importantly, did you know that theCA state parks system is the 2nd largest educator in CA? As a retired teacher, this is extremely important to me! Thousands of school age children see history come alive when they visit a state park! Our state my be going through some rough financial times - but we've got to sacrifice whatever it takes to keep our parks open for all residents of CA!

Laura Garrett

As the Conservation Chair for the Pasadena Audubon Society, I completely support this proposition. It is affordable, it will encourage more people to use our state parks, the money is protected in a trust, and it will mean that our parks are protected and restored.
As an educator, I understand the concerns about other parts of the state budget that are suffering, like education and health care, and they need solutions too. Until we have real budget reform that allows the legislature to do its job effectively, Proposition 21 is a step in the right direction.

June Krystoff-Jones

I'll gladly give up a latte every other month to help fund the state park system. I live in Morro Bay & know several of the over 200 docents that volunteer time to keep our local natural history museum operating smoothly. Even with this much community support the needs for full time staff are apparent; maintenance projects go unattended, educational programs unscheduled, trails remain unmarked. Recently camping rate have increased to $50 per night in an effort to generate revenue, but this will eliminate people who simply can't afford these fees. There must be a way to consistantly fund this important department so that it can continue to be available to everyone in our state, not just the wealthy few. Unspoiled natural areas should be available to us all as they are a source of beauty, calm, & inspiration today & into the future.

Jeannie Kegebein

California State Parks were begun as a public benefit, and remain a place of recreation and re-creation. Prop 21 will benefit the State of California through millions of tourism dollars and sales taxes from businesses near state parks.

Kaye Morgan

It is important to support Prop 21 - it will save our state parks. Right now, funds from the State's General Fund must be appropriated to support the parks, but money is not forthcoming. The state is broke. Prop 21 will create a separate fund solely for the benefit of state parks. That will enable the repair and replacement of many dangerous conditions - broken walkways, trails in need of repair, missing or non-existent railings in dangerous places, buildings literally falling apart, drinking water fountains and spigots that can't be used now, and on and on. Many state parks will be closed because of dangerous un-cared for conditions. How sad. The addition of $18 to vehicle registration will enable that person complete access to state parks, and enable our parks to stay open.
Kaye Morgan
Arroyo Grande

John Trinkl

I support Prop. 21. It's important for people--especially kids who live in cities--have access to the outdoors. I live near Calaveras Big Tress State Park, in Calaveras County near Arnold. When I have visitors, I take them to this park and they usually are very impressed. It's well worth the investment.

Rick Vogel

As a park volunteer for the last eight years, I have seen the ravages of our legislature's dysfunction. Proposition 21 is the only rational way we can reverse this destruction of the best State Park system in the nation. Having visited many of our parks, I have found every one to be a wonderful place worthy of saving. One comment has stated that this $18 per year fee is unfair to the working poor. I would counter that these same folks are also among the most frequent visitors. I truly believe that many of our less affluent citizens would welcome this Park Access fee. I will definitely vote yes on Prop 21.

Marianne Slaughter

I support the state parks initiative because the parks are a state treasure, and they provide an important opportunity for recreation and wildlife habitat. They are for everyone, not just the wealthy, and should be available. The annual license surcharge provides a definite source of revenue and will allow the parks to be self-sustaining.

I do not visit the parks very often, but how much I use them is not the point. The point is that they should be available to the public, regardless of income.

Monica Odani

I spend most of my grandma-time with my grandchildren at state parks & beaches. This will save me a ton of money.

Judy Joseph

I grew up in the beach State parks. My children did too. They were and are an important part in raising healthy, happy children. Keep them open and accessible.

Lisa Ayers

I have a great apprecition and respect for all of nature, all wild places and animals. I am in favor of all things that work to keep the beauty of nature alive and well. I wish I could be blessed enough to see more of the beauty available at the many State Parks. I am not able to do so. The last time I was able to do so I was a little girl. My mother and father had not yet divorced. My father had not yet stolen the family car my mother bought for our family to ride in, but had herself never learned to drive. We became a househould of a single working mother and a daughter barely able to survive month to month. I am now a much older, disabled, chronically ill, woman subsisting on Social Security. Since I do not sell drugs or anything else illegal, I do not have the money to afford a car, nor the gas to put into the gas tank to drive a car anywhere, State Parks or otherwise. My city of residence, Bakersfield, CA, has so much smog/ air pollution I seldom can even enjoy seeing the many pretty mountins that surround me! I feel so sad when I think of all the many children and teens that have never been able to go to the Parks like I was able to as a child. It is shme these many children were never able to see the AWESOMENESS of the tall Redwood trees, or the serenity of the lakes and several prestine beaches because they have been born into poverty that never allowed for such trips outside their immediate city limits. It is such a sad shame. Almost as sad and shameful as the continually increasing poverty and homelessness in this, the "Wealthiest Country in the World!"

John Mott

Prop 21 can "fix" state parks.

Prop 21 style funding will not "fix" the funding challenges facing education, health, welfare or infrastructure.

Parks are an economic generator for the state bringing in $2.35 for every $1.00 in general fund support. Most other state agencies do not generate revenue, they spend it.

Parks fees are so high now that they prohibit a significant number of people from attending.

Prop 21 will fund and fix state parks for everyones benefit!!!

Gae Henry

I agree with what many others have said. California's State Parks contain some of our most unique historical treasures, such as Sutter's Fort, Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park -- and some of the most interesting and fragile natural treasures, like Antelope Valley California Poppy State Natural Reserve. Some contain many treasures -- Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lake County, not only provides protection for several types of unique plant and animal habitat but also contains archeological evidence of over 10,000 years of continuous human habitation, with signs of long-term Native American use including Petraglyphs, plus has a 19th century Ranch House complex that allows for greater understanding of the European Immigrant experience. The park at Anderson Marsh was established due to lots of organizing and community support -- local citizens saw the immense value in protecting the Anderson Marsh area from "development" and fought for it. Now it is a "draw" for those who wish to experience some untouched nature, as well as explore the connections between all who have lived in the area. This park, along with many others, cannot be protected without a steady source of funding. Elementary School "Standards" in California education include learning about California history as well as the history of "your local area." As a retired educator, I want California's history and unique environment to live on not just in textbooks, but in full glory for the children of tomorrow. If our elected officials cannot figure out a way to support parks, I believe the citizens of California must do what the citizens of Lake County did and take matters into their own hands. There is a mistrust of "them" and what "they" will do with our money, so it is important that the money from Prop 21 is dedicated to the Parks, and does not go into the general fund. I am happy to pay more than $18 (I have more than one vehicle) -- if this is what it takes to get a "dedicated source" of funding. We have a DUTY to preserve our history and heritage for generations to come, whether we visit parks daily or not at all. I will be voting YES on Prop 21 and encourage others to do so!!

Henry B.

I am totally in favor of this idea. The state parks are a precious resource that deserves to be specially protected. In these times, the unique and irreplaceable state parks have to be saved and a special source of funding is simply necessary. I visit the state parks often and can see the damage already being inflicted because of the lack of funding. Most people drive to the parks, so a vehicle tax is a fair way to fund the saving of something that makes California the unique and special place that it is.

Lee Dittmann

I'm no longer a California resident, but I grew up there, and worked and lived at a California State Park for almost ten years, both as a paid employee and as a full-time volunteer. Allow me to advance an opinion from the perspective of an outsider, who was an insider. Proposition 21 looks to me like an excellent means of providing a steady funding source for an agency which is almost always underfunded, and which has been more subject to a funding roller coaster than most other needs. Most of the exceptional units of this system, often approaching or meeting federal standards of significance, are relatively close to where people recreate. In tough economic times, even more so than otherwise, people need parks in which to reflect, at an affordable price: to experience their place in the wider world of nature and to better understand their heritage as they visit California's State Historic Parks.

Proposition 21 gives the citizens of California the most realistic opportunity to do that. Other options are not feasible. The parks need minimal professional staffing, and have long been making extraordinary use of volunteers (as someone who has donated thousands of hours of skilled labor, I write from experience). Raising use fees to cover more of park operation costs just excludes more California citizens from using them and jeopardizes the future of the system by narrowing the public's base of support for parks. Privatize? If there were money in operating parks, how come there are not dozens of private parks (excluding private campgrounds on mere acres of land) operating now? Some of the same lands purchased by the state could have been bought by private parties and operated as parks, if it were profitable to do so. Some parks could generate more revenue by operating concessions internally (such as lodges, restaurants, and gift shops), but some of these would take away tax-generating revenue from similar businesses outside the park, and there is political opposition to government favoring one private business over others. And how many business investors would want to operate in a State Park system that has a history of being threatened with closure? Not to mention that few state parks are large enough that concessions would not adversely impact the very values parks are designed to protect.

So Proposition 21 is not a perfect solution, but, as they say, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You who are California motor vehicle owners will get free day use parking for $1.50/month, while those of us who visit your fine state will be able to look forward to open and better cared-for parks. We out-of-staters will pay regular day-use fees, and give you additional tourist revenue from your wise investment.


I love our parks. Where I live we have beautiful redwood parks and perfect awesome beaches, all run by CA state parks. These wonderful parks are in pretty bad shape from years of minimal maintenance. The poor Ranger staff is at an all time low with millions more visitors every year. We need to fix this soon or tourist will not want to come back to California. I think the $18.00 for full access to parks is a great idea.

Sandy H.

The added DMV fee to keep California State Parks open is an excellent idea and will benefit every state resident. For those who say they don't use the parks, then think about your children, nieces, nephews, grandkids and neighbors. Someone you know and love enjoys and benefits from state parks.

Each child who visits a state park returns home enlightened in many ways. State parks are places for children to recreate, and learn the beauty of the natural world. Whether it be a beach or mountain park, or a site that celebrates the history of our state, children will always leave a state park enriched in mind, body and spirit. It behooves all of us as a community to support prop.21.

Cameron Case

Our parks are a resource for all. We need to protect our parks for our children, grandchildren, and our children's grandchildren. We support Prop 21.

Susan Grove

YES on Proposition 21! California is famous for Lake Tahoe, the redwoods and the Big Sur coast. Think of the loss to the State economy if these areas were no longer adequately protected and preserved. And the historic parks serve as outdoor classrooms to thousands and thousands of school children each year... they learn about the missions, the gold rush and the Donner Party just to name a few. I grew up camping in our State Parks and I can't imagine who wouldn't support them for such a nominal fee. Give up one cup of coffee a month and you've got that $1.50/month easily covered. We have a golden opportunity now to make a difference to future generations. Don't pass this up!

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