Henry Coe State Park taken off closure list

May 25, 2012 7:30:02 PM PDT
A celebration took place Friday at one of the 70 state parks slated for closure on July 1st. The celebration was held at Henry Coe State Park, east of Morgan Hill, because it has been taken off the list for closure. That means more than 60,000 annual visitors can keep coming to enjoy the outdoors for the next three years.

A check for $279,000 is going to keep Henry Coe State Park from closing. The 87,300-acre park was one of 70 slated to close July 1st due to budget cuts. Losing Northern California's largest state park with its 400 miles of trails didn't sit well with tech Executive Dan McCranie.

"It's just drop-dead beautiful. How many times can you go half an hour from your workplace and be out here backpacking, mountain biking, having equestrian riding," said McCranie.

Seventeen parks have been saved so far by grassroots fundraising campaigns; 18 more are close to deals. At Henry Coe, salaries for two rangers, one maintenance worker, and two seasonal aides will be covered for the next three years by private funding. State parks director Ruth Coleman says this is only a short-term fix.

"We're not saving these parks. We're getting a reprieve, and this really requires a long-term structural adjustment to all state government. That's what the governor has been working on, so in the long run we're going to have to take a much longer, more sustainable look at how we're going to fund our state parks," said Coleman.

Andy Vought has been raising funds to work out a similar deal to keep Portola and Castle Rock State Parks open. The public showing its willingness to raise money, he says, sends an important message to Sacramento.

"If they had proposed closing 70 parks and there hadn't been a groundswell of community activism, that would have said something. They would have said, 'Well, maybe that's the right way to pare back on spending money,'" said Vought.

There's more good news. The daily $8 entrance fee to come into the park is going to be channeled right back into park operations, instead of putting it into the state's general fund.

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