By Will Power / East County Magazine / May 16, 2011
Citing budget concerns , the State of California (and the U.S. federal government) are studying plans to turn over California’s most precious beaches, lakes, and forests to private entrepreneurs who will rent California’s own land back to its citizens for a profit.
Seventy California state parks are slated for permanent closure, including Palomar Mountain State Park and San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park in San Diego County. Once the title to these pristine and irreplaceable lands is clouded by contract law, do not expect the public to ever see them again for free.
It would be better for everyone to lock the gates, buy an umbrella insurance policy, and keep the public out. The wildlife would not mind, and if and when California get its finances in order it would still hold title to these lands.
No matter how carefully California lawyers write up the contracts, private entrepreneurs will insist on complete control of access, hours, terms of employment, and future considerations. it’s the future considerations that are the killers.
Once Walt Disney rents Yellowstone or Yosemite, don’t expect them to return it untouched without considerable profit and cost to the taxpayers.
Local developers would love to gain access to California State Parks. The clean air, fish, and wildlife are huge intangible assets that increase real estate values far beyond the norm. Sadly, California’s state parks have been mismanaged badly. The fees for day use are outrageous. Parks trails, bathrooms, and buildings have been neglected.
Like the stupid decision to sell California’s State Buildings to corporations and rent them back, these propositions need to be torpedoed and sunk. it would be better to name the State Parks State Wilderness Areas and forbid development altogether than rent them away to re-developers and land sharks. A clouded title is worth less than no title at all. Do not privatize the parks!
Will Power is a retired history teacher and creative writing instructor.