California State Parks

Uploaded by KCHONews on 27.06.2011

Welcome to the Friday Forum, I'm Kelly Frost. Governor Gerry Brown has proposed
closing seventy of California's two hundred seventy eight state parks
including several here in the north state
that's nearly a quarter of the parks in California
the savings would be roughly thirty three million dollars to the state but
it would be devastating to the more than two hundred employees who would lose their
jobs not to mention the effect on local economies
there are alternatives though to the closures including having either a
non-profit agency or a private company takeover operations. One such entity is
the Red Bluff-based California Parks Company, which already has contracts with
the federal park system. John Koeberer is the c_e_o_ of the California Parks
Company and recently told Northstate Public Radio the state is no longer in
the position to operate many of its parks.
The state park have been
experiencing funding deficits from the general fund for years uh...
they they
the really haven't uh...
got any additional funding and and trying to run
are all these parks um...
through the years with the same budget have less money and and i think part of
the problem is
that they have acquired uh... additional units along the way many of which in my
mind uh... you know don't have to be statewide significance that would have better
would have better remained
you know with a local entity or a nonprofit
um... and frankly i think uh... they have too many units
and they're spread too thin
and i think trying to take care of all those has exhausted the treasury
Koeberer gives some local examples
including Red Bluff's Ide Adobe and Chico's Bidwell Mansion. I'm very familiar, my
office in Red Bluff is
Ide Adobe is just a quarter mile down the road so that that's a really good
example the the park there in Corning uh...
uh... to some extent you know that Bidwell Mansion that might be kind of on
the cusp
because it does have some statewide significance because of I think
you-know-what Bidwell did in the state here in years
but uh... yeah those are the kind of parks we're talking about you know that
could be assumed by a local parks
uh... city parks district or a county parks district or a regional park
district or even a nonprofit
i could see that Bidwell Mansion uh... you know the the university may be taken
over the Bidwell Mansion. Admittedly though Koeberer says that local park districts are
in the same financial situation as the state
that's what businesses such as his come in.
If they could put one good revenue center park, you know that produced a healthy
stream of revenue
and then you know let us manage a park like that we could take
under our umbrella varieties of smaller parks in the same geographical area and
manage that too
uh... it it could be done and we've tried to convince
state parks of that uh ... that's a working model. California Parks Company currently
operates the concessions that the Lassen Volcanic National Park and
based on that model Koeberer says discussions are on going with the state.
I sent a list myself that included five parks that we would be interested in
where we have
you know hospitality services in larger parks not necessarily
state parks in the same geographic area like take uh... Castle Crags
up there you know of of above right there in Mount Shasta, right there much else so. We also
run for the forest service
uh... the royal watchers campgrounds in Shasta Lake and that's be natural for us
to take over the Crags campground there
so those are the kind of things that the private sector can do
it's an uphill battle
recent legislation has gone through the California legislature to make it easier
for nonprofits to take over operation of the state park
but it did not include wording that would allow the private sector to do so
Koeberer would like to change that.
We have to get to the point where the park service understand, I state parks understand
understand that they're not going to solve all their problems with nonprofits.
You know they they can't really
run the larger parks that don't have the financial capability or the management
capability and knowledge to do it
and when they finally recognized that this isn't a scare tactic anymore
in the governor's is not going to care
and they're not going to
gets the funding they need to run the whole system when that reality finally
sets in
and then they recognized that the non-profit sector can do certain parks very well
but for some of the larger units
probably not so well and and then they're gonna have to come to the table
and recognize that the private sectors probably the most realistic uh... and
and most
successful way
potentially successful way to go. But legislation is just one hurdle that needs to
be overcome
the other is the unions, where fo those jobs go and even if they are absorbed
into the private sector will they be willing to take a pay cut? That is a hurdle
it's a difficult one.
you know what's happening on a state-wide basis with unions and pension
funds and everything else
you know that they're just
going to have to
there's going to have to be some give
and because, because ot just
isn't going to work at those wage levels
and the state and you know that the public is
is going to have to make that decision they either want parks operator or they want
and if they have to have unions the parks are not going to be able to
beopen because it would cost too much to operate it
and frankly
Koeberer says if the parks closed the jobs are lost forever
i think if the California economy continues to deteriorate
you know and if the governor doesn't cave
you know and
give parks the funding they need
and when that reality sets in the parks going to close and they
know that there is a private sector alternative
out there
uh... i think they'll still be enough public pressure to
bring state parks to the table with the private sector.
Even though it's an uphill battle, he still thinks it's worth fighting,
a real alternative to closing access to California's parks
John Koeberer will be one of our guests when we take a more in-depth look at
this issue on our call in program I five live on Monday night June
twenty-seventh at eight p_m_
For Northstate Public Radio news, i'm Kelly Frost in Redding.