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Volunteers Are Prepared for Closure of Chatsworth’s Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park

California has a $26 billion budget deficit, so 70 state parks are on the hit list.

When word came from Gov. Jerry Brown in Sacramento Friday that Chatsworth’s Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park was on a hit list of 70 parks facing shutdown, the park-using community was already prepared.

They’d gone through this before when former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used the park-closure threat as a bargaining chip as he tried to balance his budget.  When the budget passed, the parks remained open.

“Closing state parks is not a task that gives anyone joy, but we are experiencing turbulent times that necessitate deep – almost unthinkable – cuts to public services. I will work hard in the coming weeks to reach an agreement that will allow us to avoid deeper and more disruptive reductions,” said Gov. Jerry Brown.

California faces a $26 billion budget deficit.

But, the park community, with the assistance of the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council, has already trained several classes of docents who could patrol the park and keep it operating once the state withdraws.

The fear has always been that when parks eventually close, nothing will prevent people from riding horses, walking or cycling into parks to hike on trails. That could lead to increased homeless encampments, marijuana growing and fires, which could spread to nearby private properties. Chatsworth Park South is already closed because of lead contamination in the soil.  The state park surrounds much of Chatsworth Park South.

“Our two-year-old park volunteer program spent over 3,700 hours [on patrol] in 2010,” said Teena Takata, a CPA, land-use committee secretary of the Neighborhood Council, and a park activist.

There is a core group of about 45 docents trained by State Park Rangers to state standards, and another 10 to 12 leaders, according to John Luker, who has been vice president of the Santa Susana Mountain Park Assn.

State Parks Director Ruth Coleman told the San Jose Mercury News Friday that "we would expect to start seeing padlocks after Labor Day." But by late afternoon, state parks spokesman Roy Stearns was saying the closures wouldn't begin until next summer because of the time needed to relocate or lay off staff, the Mercury New reported.

Chatsworth’s Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park is located in the Santa Susana Mountains on the border between Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.  It is an undeveloped hiking park that is rich in historical, cultural, and natural resources. Due to previous budget cuts and staff reductions, State Parks depends heavily on volunteers and partnerships to help keep the park clean, safe, and accessible for the community. 

So, local docents, patrol the park, map trails, organize citizen watch hikes and are preparing a new visitor information center.

 “Volunteers work as part of the Park Observer program. [They are involved in] graffiti abatement and lead hikes that showcase park history and natural features,” Takata said.

“Because the park is relatively small and has no formal attendance records or revenue, it always is vulnerable during periods of state budget cuts,” Takata said.

And that’s the guideline used by the state in choosing which of the 278 parks to close. Officials worked to keep open those with the most attendance and historical significance, as well as those that bring in the most revenue.

 “We believe that the Sacramento budget cutter never has seen the sandstone giants that characterize the aptly-named Chatsworth Formation, never hiked the historic Devils Slide that was a stagecoach route, and never has seen a red sticky monkey flower, such as we only see in Chatsworth,” Takata said.

“On behalf of our park and our community, we appeal to community members to write Gov. Jerry Brown, [c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814, Phone: 916-445-2841, Fax: 916-558-3160] requesting that the Santa Susana State Historic Park not be closed,” Takata said.

Gov. Brown has not yet signed the $33 million in cuts from the parks budget approved earlier this year, so whether the closures will be included in a final budget is unclear. On Monday, he is scheduled to announce his revised budget, and new state revenue projections. 

Parks Director Coleman has said the remaining parks may face a cut in services, such as closing bathrooms, lifeguard towers and other facilities  throughout the system to cut $11 million in the coming fiscal year and $22 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

If the closures take effect as expected, Brown would become the first governor in California history to close state parks to save money.

To volunteer or for more information on local hikes, see http://ssmpa.com or call 818-784-4849.

Here is the list announced Friday:

  1. Anderson Marsh State Historic Park
  2. Annadel State Park
  3. Antelope Valley Indian Museum
  4. Austin Creek State Recreation Area
  5. Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park
  6. Benbow Lake State Recreation Area
  7. Benicia Capitol State Historic Park
  8. Benicia State Recreation Area
  9. Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park
  10. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
  11. Brannan Island State Recreation Area
  12. California Mining & Mineral Museum
  13. Candlestick Point State Recreation Area
  14. Castle Crags State Park
  15. Castle Rock State Park
  16. China Camp State Park
  17. Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area
  18. Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
  19. Fort Humboldt State Historic Park
  20. Fort Tejon State Historic Park
  21. Garrapata State Park
  22. George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area
  23. Governor's Mansion State Historic Park
  24. Gray Whale Cove State Beach
  25. Greenwood State Beach
  26. Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park
  27. Hendy Woods State Park
  28. Henry W. Coe State Park
  29. Jack London State Historic Park
  30. Jug Handle State Natural Reserve
  31. Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park
  32. Limekiln State Park
  33. Los Encinos State Historic Park
  34. Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
  35. Manchester State Park
  36. McConnell State Recreation Area
  37. McGrath State Beach
  38. Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve
  39. Morro Strand State Beach
  40. Moss Landing State Beach
  41. Olompali State Historic Park
  42. Palomar Mountain State Park
  43. Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park
  44. Picacho State Recreation Area
  45. Pio Pico State Historic Park
  46. Plumas-Eureka State Park
  47. Point Cabrillo Light Station
  48. Portola Redwoods State Park
  49. Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
  50. Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
  51. Russian Gulch State Park
  52. Saddleback Butte State Park
  53. Salton Sea State Recreation Area
  54. Samuel P. Taylor State Park
  55. San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park
  56. Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park
  57. Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park
  58. Shasta State Historic Park
  59. South Yuba River State Park
  60. Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area
  61. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
  62. Tomales Bay State Park
  63. Tule Elk State Natural Reserve
  64. Turlock Lake State Recreation Area
  65. Twin Lakes State Beach
  66. Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park
  67. Westport-Union Landing State Beach
  68. William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park
  69. Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area
  70. Zmudowski State Beach
Tom mcginley May 19, 2011 at 03:48 AM
I have lived in chatsworth for 46 yrs and two blocks away from south park.South park is already closed because some dum ass brought up the lead poisen problem.Now they wanna close the trails above the park and have people looking to tell on you if they see u hiking up there.I will never stop hiking up there even if theres a fence or a sign saying stay out.Im a local of chatsworth and know most of the people who have lived in chatsworth for the last 50 yrs.Those rocks up there are a part of me and a alot of other people also u actually think a fence is going to keep people from hiking up there i dont think so were just going to hike around the other way lol.But then again the old chatsworth is gone anyway......
Dave May 24, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Am glad the Park received the stipend to remain "open" for another year, but seriously - the state doesn't have enough money to keep all the parks open, where will they get the money to completely fence off the park - so who is the state kidding?

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