Editor: We wanted to repost this article as our new governor also wants to close certain parks. This was originally published on June 8, 2009.
Have you heard this joke: What happened when the Governor tried to close the desert? The Turkey Vultures went on strike. … Don’t get it? Read on.
I wanted to start this post off light-hearted, with a joke even. I get tired and bored with ‘straight’ analytical reports on issues that scream for our attention. Everybody and everything is screaming for our attention these days, so it better be a damn good one.
But humor and wit can soften you up, make you susceptible for the author’s hidden or not-so hidden agenda. If you’re already chuckling, then it’s easier to swallow reality pills.
Anyways, that’s the theory. Of course, you may lose your reader with a lame joke.
Here’s what got me laughing. I read in the Union-Tribune just the other day about how Governor Schwarzenegger wants to close a number of parks, beaches and deserts for budgetary reasons.
On the list is a desert that’s close to us here in San Diego: Anza-Borrego Desert Park. The Governor wants to save money by firing the park rangers and maintenance people and close it. Park fees do not cover the operational costs for the desert playground. So, bye-bye. Other parks and beaches that do make money will be kept open.
It’s less than a 2 hour drive from Ocean Beach – directly east on I-8. You just set cruise control, sit back, coast through Mission Valley, out over the Grossmont, down into the El Cajon, past Lakeside, up through Alpine, over Pine Valley, and in less than an hour from there, you’re in the desert. Anza-Borrego. (Anza was the first Spanish explorer to lead his trek team through the sand and chaparral landscape – probably following Indian, Big Horn sheep and deer trails. Borrego is the Spanish word for Big Horn sheep.)
But how do you close a desert? Is it like a zoo or a Wild Animal Park, where you can simply close and lock the gates, shutter the Visitors’ Center and send the employees home?
Who tells the animals? Somebody’s got to stay with the zoo and animal park animals, at least. But the wild ones? Whose gonna break it to them?
Actually, the animals would probably enjoy the absence of humans and their noisy machines. The Big Horn sheep would really dig it. Plus, just think, about all the roadkill who would be saved. Yet, the turkey vultures wouldn’t like that – they thrive on roadkill. So they’d be pissed off. (Now do you get my lame opening joke?)
And what about the little towns and businesses that cater to the desert visitors? Especially the liquor stores and small markets – what about them? The motels, resorts, and restaurants? Will they all just go along?
Back to the desert’s closure.
Just an initial thought: wouldn’t the costs of enforcement match the costs of keeping the desert open? I mean, how actually do you close a desert? Obviously, you can’t fence the entire Anza Borrego Desert! Once you close it, how do you keep it closed? How do you enforce it? By helicopter?
Well, I going to warn you, Mr. Governor. This won’t be easy – something you should have learned while filming the Terminators.
The desert attracts all kinds – and many of those that the desert attracts are strong and rugged individualists, independently and individually-minded, survivalists even. Can you keep them out? They’re a tough bunch. They’ll eat your “Park is closed” signs for lunch.
There’s all those hairy and long-haired bikers, too. You’ve seen them in their packs. Are you going to take them on, and tell them the desert roads are closed? They look mean. How do you close a desert without closing the desert roads? It is confusing.
And what about all those college kids – taking mushrooms, they’re not going to have a state-of-mind to read the ‘stop’ signs. And what about all those beer-swilling East County kids – riding 3-wheelers and bikes in the dirt. Are you gonna be able to keep those kind out? Their goggles are way too dirty to read any closure signs.
And what about the people who go hiking, the cross-country hiking people, who don’t care about trails? They’re so stubborn. They traipse across the countryside, ignoring signs and warning markers enough already. What’s going to happen when you try to close the whole place down with them?
Then, there’s those strong-willed bird watchers, who by god, will go to great lengths to see their feathered friends. No desert closure will prevent them from snapping up their binoculars and scanning the bushes and skies.
So, you see, Mr. Gov, this is a big challenge, trying to close a desert. You might have to call out the National Guard just to patrol it, to keep out the rugged individualists, the survivalists, the hairy bikers, the mushrooming college kids, the drunk dirt-bikers, the stubborn hikers, and those damn bird watchers.
By time you add up all the over-time spent enforcing the ‘keep out’ signs and keeping these stubborn, drunk, bird-watching, rugged, shroomed-out vandals and trespassers from entering your closed desert, you might just think twice, and keep it open, so all these weirdos have a place to go. So’s they’re not in your face.