UPDATED: Henry W. Coe Park could close

UPDATED: Henry W. Coe Park could close

The 87,000 acres of protected wildlife and parkland in South
County’s back yard may close following Governor Jerry Brown’s
release of his May budget revision Monday morning.
The 87,000 acres of protected wildlife and parkland in South County’s back yard may close following Governor Jerry Brown’s release of his May budget revision Monday morning. On page 53, of 124 pages in the budget revision summary that resolves the remaining $10.8 billion deficit, is printed under “Recently Adopted Solutions”: the shuttering of 70 state parks to save $33 million over two years.

Henry W. Coe State Park is on the list of cuts that were mandated by a bill passed by the Legislature in March. The real affect of closing so many state parks is coming to fruition now.

“Although park closures have been threatened before, this constitutes the first time in the 100-year history of California state parks that a serious, deliberate effort has been made to significantly reduce the state parks system,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of California State Parks Foundation.

Brown’s proposal keeps open the parks that produce the most revenue such as Hearst Castle and many beaches in Southern California that attract millions of visitors each year.

The state parks department delineated three primary goals for developing the closure methodology: 1. protect the most significant natural and cultural resources; 2. maintain public access and revenue generation to the greatest extent possible; and 3. protect closed parks so that they remain attractive and usable for potential partners.

“These cuts are unfortunate, but the state’s current budget crisis demands that tough decisions be made,” said Resources Secretary John Laird, Morgan Hill’s former assemblyman. “Hopefully, Republicans in the Legislature will agree to allow California voters to decide whether we extend currently existing taxes or make deeper cuts to our parks.”

Frequent Coe visitor Sean McLaughlin, who works in the global marketing department at Specialized Bikes in Morgan Hill, has been hiking and mountain biking in Coe for 15 years and is a lifelong devotee of exploring and the outdoors.

“While I recognize the need to work on the state budget … it seems like this is such a small fraction of the bigger challenge,” he said, pointing out that most park activities are volunteer run.

Four state park employees work at Coe; two rangers and two maintenance employees.

Despite the large number of parks identified for closure, at least 92 percent of today’s attendance will be retained, 94 percent of existing revenues will be preserved, and 208 parks will remain open, Brown’s office reported.

On Friday, after Brown’s announcement, Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said the proposal to close 70 parks is distressing. Henry W. Coe State Park is the only state park in Santa Clara County and the second largest in California.

“While I understand the dire budgetary situation that has led to this decision, it is still a tragedy that these parks will no longer be open to the 5.6 million visitors they annually host,” Monning said.

The threat to close Coe has been in the news before. In 2009, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed cutting 220 of 278 state parks to save $70 million, though the plan was later revoked. Instead, 32 state parks are now managed by cities, counties or nonprofit organizations. In November, voters rejected Proposition 21 that would have added an $18 annual fee on vehicle registrations to provide funding for state parks.

The governor must submit his final budget revision before July 1 when the next fiscal year begins, until then, the 38,000 people who visit the park that was donated by Henry Coe’s family in 1953 can depend on the park to remain open.

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