The Closing of Palomar Mountain Park Will Only Save the State Less Than $160,000

by on June 14, 2011 · 8 comments

in Economy, Environment, San Diego

Doune Pond at Palomar Mountain State Park.

If Palomar Mountain State Park is closed, as the gov wants to do, our big state will really not save all that much from its closure. According to Roy Sterns, Deputy Director of Communications for the California State Parks, California will only save less than $160,000 a year by closing Palomar Mountain State Park.  That isn’t much for one of the grandest natural treasures San Diego County currently claims.

As you have probably heard, Governor Jerry Brown wants to shut down 70 state parks up and down California in light of the state’s budget crisis. The parks slated for closure would meet the governor’s $22 million budget cuts. These include Palomar Mountain State Park here in our county.  According to the superintendent of Palomar Mountain and Cuyamaca Rancho parks, the plan is to now close the park beginning July 2012. This will be the very first time that Palomar will be shut down.

However, Supe. Nedra Martinez said in a letter sent out to residents of the mountain back in mid May, the park will be closed before that summer 2012 date on Mondays through Thursdays beginning this September.  And Fridays through Sundays the park will be open -until a little over a year from now.

The other park in San Diego County to be closed is the San Pasqual Battlefield, east of Escondido.  The Salton Sea recreation area is also targeted in our neighboring county.  (See this article by J. Harry Jones and Mike Lee at SD U-T published back in mid May.)

Just to be clear, only the state park up on Palomar will be closing.  The federal section – closer to the Observatory – will remain open.

View of Point Loma, Ocean Beach, and one of the Coronado Islands from the top of Palomar Mountain. (Palomar Mtn. News)

Sterns told me in a phone interview early this afternoon, that normally Palomar Mountain State Park costs the state $297,464 to run annually.  This includes salaries of park employees, vehicles, gas, park maintenance, utilities, phones, etc.  But also, Palomar takes in approximately $140,022 in camping fees and other charges to campers, fishers, and day trippers.

Subtracting the fees taken in from the costs to run it, gets you to $157,422. This is the savings for a year – less than $160,000! And of course, this does not include the costs to the state to re-open it, nor does it include the costs to the state to enforce the closure.

This is such a travesty, it’s beyond words. Palomar Mountain Park is a great place to remind yourself about nature, and its closure will be a tragedy for all San Diegans.

A recent LA Times editorial raised some concerns:

Consider what it means, for instance, to “close” Palomar Mountain State Park’s 1,800 acres in San Diego County, one of many large parks on the list. The state can lock the gates to the main access road, of course. But the park is adjacent to the much-larger Palomar district of the Cleveland National Forest and shares trails with that federal open land. Motorists might stay out, along with law-abiding types who respect rules, but many others will enter illegally, heedless of the lack of staff to rescue them in case of trouble. While the parks are closed, patrols will be infrequent.

Campers who try to escape detection are more likely to set up campfires in the backcountry, creating a fire hazard. Meth labs and marijuana farms are always a concern in larger parks with remote areas. And one bad fire would more than wipe out the $22 million the state hopes to save next year by shutting all 70 parks.

If an endangered species is harmed by a closure, the state is answerable to the federal government. If illegal use of the park or failure to maintain the grounds creates a neighborhood nuisance, the state could face legal action.

In addition, at least one blogger thinks closing some of California’s state parks would violate federal law.

There is also a move afoot in the State Assembly to come up with a bill that would save Palomar and the other 69 parks from closing. In Foundation Pushes for Bill an Assembly Bill 42, sponsored by Jared Huffman, D-Marin, would allow the Department of Parks and Recreation to enter into operating agreements with nonprofit organizations to care for the parks. If this bill passes, it would give Palomar Mountain a chance to stay open, said Jerry Emory, a spokesperson for California State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the state’s parks.

Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the foundation, said:

“We are not going to stand by as our state parks system is closed and dismantled. California’s state park system belongs to the people of California, and its existence is critical to the state’s environmental, economic and civic fabric.”

Roy Sterns of the State Parks is aware of Bill 42 but cannot take an official position on it just yet. He did say that the state has 4 parks now run by non-profits. “We’re not opposed to sitting down and talking with non-profits” about all of this. 32 parks right now are operated by cities and counties, Sterns said.

In countering concerns or fears of the privatization of our  parks, Sterns counseled that even if a non-profit took over Palomar Mountain, the state would still not turn over the deed or ownership of the park. Plus the non-profit would still have to operate the park under state park guidelines.  Already, Sterns added, the state has 190 contracts with non-profits to run and operate concessions, rides, etc at the state parks.

Lastly, according to the North County Times, supporters of Palomar Mountain park have launched an effort to save it by gathering photographs, letters and information that will be used to tell the story of the mountain park. They want to inform the Governor and legislators about the park by telling its story through the eyes of those who love and appreciate it.

Park ranger Jessica Murany and park volunteer Rick Barclay have created a web page that provides information about the park and invites users to “put a face on our website.” There is also a link on the web page providing sample letters to the Governor and a list of legislators to be contacted.  Here is also the link to Palomar Mountain News.

In the end, join this battle to save Palomar Mountain State Park.  And if you’ve never been up there, now is the time to go.  Before it closes.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kathleen Hayden June 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Palomar Mt has a wealth of recreation opportunity to offer the large equestrian population except for the fact that the state and feds provide no facilities for parking, camping, or access to trails on the public domain. The California Riding and Hiking Trail, the state’s first trail legislation, was enacted in 1945, The legislation was sponsored by the California State Horseman’s Association and dedicated to the Veterans returning home from WW ll. Subsequent legislation (Dunlap Bill) was passed to provide connection routes between public land. The Keene Collier Act provided for equestrian campsites recommended every twenty miles along the trail system . There are hundreds of volunteers in the equestrian organizations that would host the campground on Palomar Mt if it were open to that segment of the community. Palomar mountain is a missing link connecting county communities.

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avatar JEC June 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Very good putting the budget in perspective – and while the State will lose $140,000 in revenue they will retain the liability, further reducing potential savings. Interesting – one patrol officer, in a vehicle costs about $130,000 a year; or the cost to keep one felony drug offender in prison, $37,500 a year. The cost to have Palomar is equal to 1.25 cops or 4.25 prison beds (out of 122,000).

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avatar annagrace June 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Because Republicans in the state legislature have taken the Norquist pledge to never ever discuss the revenue side of the budget, we will continue to experience the erosion of the public good and the public safety net, which is of course their intent. Responding in piecemeal fashion against this cut and that cut is absolutely exhausting– also the intent– and at the end of it all we end up with largely dysfunctional parts- also the intent- and no resolution of the revenue side of the budget.

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avatar Alissa June 14, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Couldn’t have said it better myself: “This is such a travesty, it’s beyond words. Palomar Mountain Park is a great place to remind yourself about nature, and its closure will be a tragedy for all San Diegans.” I knew the school camp was closing this year (my dad works there); but I just recently heard the state park is slated to close as well. I’m so extra disapointed about this; it’s my families new favorite camping spot. Not to mention it’s an AMAZING place!!

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avatar Martin Eder June 15, 2011 at 1:12 am

One of the glorious pleasures of living in San Diego is going from ocean to mountains and no mountains better than Palomar.

I have been camping there since 1981, I love the Lower French trail with the extraordinary oaks.

I have a cabin up there now …. see http://www.PalomarMountainCabin.com
OB folks have used it in the past and many a progressive have rented it for a retreat. Call me if you are interested in a comfy stay. Martin 619-871-9354
— a discount if you mention OB Rag.

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avatar Radical Uterus June 15, 2011 at 2:03 am

When I saw this latest attempt at balancing a budget on the backs of the people who cannot afford to surround themselves with pristine private wildlands, I was reminded of our first conservation minded President and what he would think of our present American society.

Teddy Roosevelt was also a champion of women’s right to fair treatment under the law.

Read his words and make up your mind about what ole Teddy would think.

“Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and commonsense.”… “We must treat each man on his worth and merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less.””The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.”
New York State Fair, Syracuse, September 7, 1903

“A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled, and less than that no man shall have.”
Speech to veterans, Springfield, IL, July 4, 1903

“We demand that big business give the people a square deal; in return we must insist that when anyone engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right he shall himself be given a square deal.”

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avatar tj June 17, 2011 at 9:12 am

Palomar is indeed a treasure.

And, granted, in the big scheme of things, & at the State level – $160k is nothing.

But, in a time of economic CRISIS – sacrifices MUST be made. Selling State Parks, as the “Terminator” was proposing – is foolhardy & shortsighted beyond belief. But temporarly closing Parks is reasonable & prudent.

Greed, Arrogance & Stupidity in Washington/ NY – has caused a lot of pain – unfortunatly, it must be spread around.

It’s time for the modern day “Psudo-Robber-Barrons,” who, unlike their predecessors – create nothing (unless, that is, you count misery) to $$$ buck up.

And yet they think they’re entitled to a Tax Cut – if you listen to them … & their hired tools (& the naive/ ignorant) – will try & get them one …

duh.

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avatar Rick Barclay June 27, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Frank, Thanks for a well researched and passionate article! I will be posting a link to it on Palomar Mountain State Park’s website.

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