My Turn: We oppose Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan to close California State Parks | SierraSun.com

My Turn: We oppose Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan to close California State Parks

Steve Teshara
My Turn

Together with other organizations in our region, the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and North Lake Tahoe Resort Association continue to vigorously oppose a plan by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to close more than 80 percent of California’s state parks.

On the lengthy list of proposed closures are all of the California state parks in the Lake Tahoe-Truckee region. On one hand, Governor Schwarzenegger says California must reverse its steep decline in employment and economic activity if it is to survive and move beyond its estimated $24 billion shortfall. On the other, he announces a plan to slash $143 million from the state parks budget and close more than 200 parks.

If approved, the Governor’s plan will have the opposite effect and#8212; state park closures will further reduce not just state jobs, but local jobs and economic activity. This governor is supposed to understand tourism. We are deeply disappointed in his decision.

In addition, State Parks are lands that the public has entrusted to the state to manage with care and appropriate stewardship. Proposing to close them is to openly declare that the state cannot be trusted to manage some of California’s most important historic, natural, recreational and environmental assets. This proposal further erodes what little faith people may still have in the government of the State of California.

Based on a review of recent local data, state parks in the Lake Tahoe-Truckee area generate more than $9.5 million each year in visitor spending. By making his announcement just before summer, even though his proposal has not been approved, the Governor has already created negative press for state parks and tourism destinations.

As an example, our Chamber and the Resort Association have received a number of e-mails from people who say they won’t be visiting Lake Tahoe this year because they’ve heard our state parks will be closed. We are working with State Senator Dave Cox and Assemblyman Ted Gaines, asking that they actively oppose the Governor’s park closure plan.

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We are also working closely with the California State Parks Foundation and our local Sierra State Parks Foundation. They are helping to coordinate and lead the opposition. California State Parks Foundation has a very informative Web site that includes a convenient way to send your own letter to the Governor and local state legislators. The site can be found at http://www.calparks.org.

Steve Teshara Executive Director North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce President and CEO of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.