Turns out that closing dozens of California state parks in order to cut millions of dollars from the state budget won’t be as easy, or cheap, as the state hoped.
Many of the parks destined to be closed in the coming year currently hold thousands of historical treasures that have to be properly stored. Things like rare crystalline gold nuggets at the California Mining and Minerals Museum in Mariposa, and paintings showing early San Francisco street scenes and coastal landscapes at Shasta State Historical Park, and even writer Jack London’s home and writing memorabilia in Sonoma County.
And it’s not as easy as throwing them all in a cardboard box and into a storage unit. The massive undertaking would require each historical item to be packed securely away, catalogued, and then transported to a storage site.
The cost of moving and storing all these treasures will put a large dent into the money the state was hoping to save by closing the parks. Kent Gresham, the California State Mining and Mineral Museum Association superintendent said the museum has more than 13,000 artifacts and would cost more than $100,000 to pack and ship to storage. He told the AP:
“The California State Mining and Mineral Museum Association is working … to keep it open and keep it there in Mariposa,” said “If that doesn’t work out, then as of July 1 we’re going to have to pack up and relocate the collection.”
Currently, California is expecting to save around $22 million by closing 70 of their 278 state parks. Roy Stearns, a spokesman for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, told the AP:
“When this started, I’m fairly sure we didn’t have any exact science on packaging and storage of artifacts. They knew there would be a cost, but they weren’t sure how to accurately estimate it.”
As the July 1 closure date approaches, city officials are working with various groups in a last-ditch effort to keep as many parks open as possible. They already have deals with organizations to keep 11 parks open and are waiting to find out if 24 more can be saved.
Last month the Legislative Analyst Office issued a report explaining that they still don’t know how much California will really be saving by closing the parks since the state can’t provide a full breakdown of operating costs. And to add insult to injury, the state never included the cost of packing, shipping, and storing these historical artifacts into the final savings amount, according to the report.
The report also acknowledged that there were a number of cost-saving ideas that could have been used to help keep the parks open, including charging visitor fees instead of parking fees and lowering staff wages.
But of course, it is too little too late as it is unlikely that any of these ideas could be implemented fast enough to save the parks before July 1.