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$18 Vehicle Fee Proposed To Save CA State Parks

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An exploratory committee comprised of parks supporters, earlier this week filed a proposed statewide ballot measure, called the "California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010," which would, in theory,  create a stable source of funding to protect state parks and conserve California wildlife.

The committee, Californians for State Parks and Wildlife Conservation, is currently considering the feasibility of the proposed ballot measure. If it decides to go forward with the initiative and qualify it for the ballot, via signature gathering, the statutory measure would appear on the November 2010 statewide ballot. Early supporters of the proposed ballot measure include California State Parks Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and Save the Redwoods League.

The President of the California State Parks Foundation, Elizabeth Goldstein, was Friday’s KVML "Newsmaker of the Day".

California has two hundred seventy eight state parks including Calaveras Big Trees in Arnold and Railtown 1897 in Jamestown.

According to the State Parks Foundation, budget cuts have starved state parks, causing them to accumulate a backlog of more than $1 billion in needed maintenance and repairs.

Earlier this year, state parks were on the brink of being shut down. Only last minute budget reprieves have kept them open. But nearly 60 state parks will be shut down part time or their hours of operation reduced because of this year’s budget cuts, and more park closure proposals and budget cuts are expected after June 30, 2010.

"California state parks are in peril because of chronic underfunding," said Goldstein, "This parks measure would create a dedicated funding source to prevent park closures, eliminate a backlog of more than a billion dollars in repairs and properly maintain parks and other natural resources for our children and grandchildren to enjoy."

The ballot measure would protect state parks and conserve wildlife by establishing the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund in the state treasury where, by law, it could only be spent on state parks, urban river parkways, wildlife, natural lands and ocean conservation programs.

Funding for the Trust Fund would come from an $18 annual State Park Access Pass surcharge on all California vehicles, including motorcycles and recreational vehicles. Larger commercial vehicles, mobile homes and permanent trailers would be exempt. Vehicles subject to the surcharge would receive free, yearround admission to all state parks throughout the year. Californians will no longer pay day use fees at any state parks. In comparison, park visitors currently pay up to $125 for an annual pass or $10 to $15 per day at most parks. Out-of-state vehicles would continue to pay full entrance fees at parks.

The voters’ investment would be protected by strict fiscal and accountability safeguards, including an annual audit by the State Auditor and a Citizens’ Oversight Committee would be created to ensure funds are spent appropriately. The State Legislature would not be able to reallocate the Trust Fund for any other uses.

State parks attract millions of tourists, who spend $4.32 billion annually on park related expenditures in California, according to a recent study. It found state parks visitors spend an average of $57.63 in surrounding communities per visit. They generate so much economic activity that every dollar the state spends on state parks generates another $2.35 for California’s treasury.

The "Newsmaker of the Day" is heard each weekday morning on AM 1450 KVML at 6:46, 7:46 and 8:46am.

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