What’s the deal with the California State Library’s Parks Pass program?

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So what exactly is going on with California’s famous state parks? Demo program Which is designed to increase access to nature for a broad and diverse public, amid other statewide cuts?

Rachel Norton, a leading advocate for the program as executive director of the California State Parks Foundation, first heard that funding for two out of three parts of the pilot program had been eliminated in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed $291 billion budget for 2024-2025. She eagerly examined the entire parks portion of the massive budget when it was released and saw, to her dismay, that it included nearly $20 million in cuts to the state parks recreation fund.

She also didn’t see any new dollars for either the library’s parks portion, which allows patrons to check out a two-week pass that gives them free admission and daily parking at state parks, or one for fourth-graders and their families that gives them an annual pass for free admission and parking. The third piece, the Low-Income Golden Bear, appears to have survived.

“Overall, it’s been a bad year for parks,” she said.

Norton said she spoke with the director and deputy director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and they confirmed that unfortunately, no renewable funding was included anywhere in the massive budget for the library or fourth-grader programs.

But that turned out to be inaccurate.

Funding is included for fourth grade students after all

After the news broke and the media wrote about the proposed cuts, Norton got a surprise. Funds for the cards for fourth graders have already been found from a different revenue source, and the program is actually in the overall proposed budget. This was confirmed by H.D. Palmer, California’s deputy chief financial officer, who told The Desert Sun in an email exactly what was proposed for each part of the pilot program for the expired parks:

  • $2.1 million in continuing Proposition 98 funding is proposed to provide funding for the county Office of Education to contract with the Parks and Recreation Department, which will then continue to provide fourth graders enrolled in public schools with access to California State Parks through the Adventure Pass.

  • The half-million dollars in funding temporarily provided to the Department of Social Services for outreach services to eligible low-income and other Golden Bear Pass beneficiaries is not proposed to be extended. But the Golden Bear Pass program will continue to be implemented by the Parks and Recreation Department using available resources.

  • State Library Parks permit funding is not proposed after 2023-2024.

California State Library park passes are available for check-out at the Palm Springs Public Library in Palm Springs, California, on December 13, 2023.

California State Library park passes are available for check-out at the Palm Springs Public Library in Palm Springs, California, on December 13, 2023.

Palmer said a projected $38 billion drop in overall revenue is why funding for library parks is not available for more funding. It’s the most expensive part of the program — an annual pass typically costs $195, and with 33,000 of them issued after long waits developed for them at branches across the state, that adds up to $8.6 million annually, Norton said.

Over three years, the State Library Parks Pass program initially received $3 million in 2021-22 and an additional $13.5 million in fiscal year 2022-23, for a total of $16.5 million, a state parks spokesperson said. The funds helped cover park ranger costs, maintenance, overhead and other costs. Pass the wonderful green library gardens will be available Until the end of the year.

A state parks official declined to answer some questions, but confirmed the passage of future funding for fourth-graders and praised the entire effort.

“The California State Library Parks Program was a pilot program that the Newsom Administration and State Parks are proud of,” department spokesman Jorge Moreno said in an email. “The State of California defends the right of all Californians to access recreational opportunities and enjoy the cultural, historic, and natural resources found throughout the state, and this work will continue through a range of programs and activities that will continue to expand all Californians’ access to parks, open space, nature, and amenities.” Cultural – for example, California State Park Adventure and Golden Bear trails.”

“Under this administration, nearly $1 billion has been invested in enhancing park access to date, and the administration is extremely proud of this record as it continues to work to balance the budget,” he added.

And Norton, who originally paid $9 million for the entire program, isn’t giving up. She will continue to push for funding for library gardens over the next few months, as the budget is finalized.

“It is incomprehensible that after all the hard work to create and begin running these programs, and the documented success in achieving a key policy goal of the Newsom administration, that these programs would lose funding,” she said. “The California State Parks Foundation and grassroots advocates from across the state will urge the Legislature to restore this funding as the budget process advances.”

For more information about all state parks permits, visit www.parks.ca.gov.

Janet Wilson is the chief environment correspondent for The Desert Sun and a contributing author for USA Today Climate point. She can be reached at jwilson@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on the Palm Springs Desert Sun: Pass California State Park Adventure and Golden Bear to follow

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