By: Jeremy Terhune

First and foremost: I agree with Michael Fitzgerald that it’s tough to ask us to fork out an additional $18 in vehicle registration fees when only less than 5% of CA State Parks are located in the Central Valley! In his article, Michael presents an interesting ethical dilemma: “Should Valley folks swallow hard and pony up for the greater good? Or send the aloof parks people back to the drawing board to devise a fairer proposition?”

I would argue that solving this dilemma requires taking a closer look at the “greater good”, and comparing that to the idea of sending a politacl message to the State that we won’t support them until they build more parks in the Valley.

For those of us whom are uncertain whether or not to support Prop 21, here are some facts to help illuminate the “greater good”:

  • There are currently 278 CA State Parks, and 64 of them are State Beaches that recieve tens of millions of visitors every year. In 2007, more than 1.5 million Californians were sickened and 10,000 beach closures and advisories were issued due to polluted run-off.
  • More than 500,000 schoolchildren participate in interpretive programs in state parks each year- they utilize California state parks as outdoor classrooms, learning valuable lessons about conservation, stewardship and the environment.
  • State parks directly support 188 privately operated in-park concessions, and every dollar spent on state parks creates another $2.35 for California’s treasury.
  • In many California’s parks roofs and sewage systems leak, restrooms are not cleaned regularly, bridges have collapsed, trails are washed out, campgrounds and visitor centers are shuttered and buildings and structures throughout the system are badly deteriorated.
  • Thousands of scenic acres are closed to the public because of reductions in park rangers, and crime has more than doubled. Destruction and vandalism of the parks themselves has grown fourfold, and beachgoers are often unprotected because of decreases in lifeguards.
  • Obnoxious aquatic plants like Water Hyacinth and Arundo donax choke Valley waterways, and are posing a problem of epic proportions. Prop. 21 will provide funds to combat the growth of invasive plants, as a result, agricultural property adjacent to state lands will have better protection from the threat of invasive species (that includes the Stanislaus River, where Caswell State Park is located).
  • Research by UCLA found that the majority of California adults are obese or overweight and more than two million Californians have been diagnosed with diabetes. Increasing access to California’s 1.5 million acres of state parkland includes 3,000 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails can only help combat the rapidly growing rate of obesity and diabetes in the state.

In a nutshell…

A YES vote on this measure means:

An $18 annual surcharge would be added to the amount paid when a person registers a motor vehicle. The surcharge revenues would be used to provide funding for state park and wildlife conservation programs. Vehicles subject to the surcharge would have free admission and parking at all state parks.

A NO vote on this measure means:

State park and wildlife conservation programs would continue to be funded through existing state and local funding sources. Admission and parking fees could continue to be charged for vehicles entering state parks.

Click here to read non-biased information about the Pros and Cons of Prop 21

This article was also posted at Bilingual Weekly News, click here to read the comments