Tahoe officials oppose state park closure plan
RENO (AP) – Lake Tahoe tourism officials oppose California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to close 220 state parks at the end of summer, saying it could cost the region about $9.5 million in annual visitor spending.
Steve Teshara, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, said the seven state parks around Tahoe provide a major boost to the local economy. They include Donner Memorial, Emerald Bay, Sugar Pine Point and D.L. Bliss state parks.
“It’s a stupid idea,” Teshara said. “To suggest a proposal that eliminates jobs and economic activity just makes no sense. It’s one of those proposals that makes you cringe to be a Californian.”
In 2002, spending by visitors around the parks topped $2.6 billion, said Roy Stearns, spokesman for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
“There are literally thousands of businesses around the parks involved in the tourism industry that benefit from our visitors,” Stearns said.
Lisa Page, spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, said the state must take drastic actions because it will run out of money by July.
Shuttering the parks at the end of summer would cut $70 million through the end of the fiscal year next June. Keeping them closed through the following fiscal year would save $143.4 million more.
“The governor understands how difficult these cuts are for Californians,” she said. “With a $24 billion budget deficit, there are no good options. It forced us to put this on the table.”
Teshara said the state has an obligation to protect the parks because they encompass some of California’s scenic and cultural high spots.
“People will still be going into the areas even if the gates are closed, but no one will be taking care of it,” he said. “(State officials) will be opening themselves up to even greater financial exposure.”
Most park campgrounds around Tahoe charge $25 per night and about $7 for a day-use pass.
“If they all stay open, we would be looking at significant fee increases. They could triple,” Stearns said.