Letter-writing effort by Save Mt. Diablo to save Mt. Diablo, and why does news of state park closures cut us to the core?

I am not Ms. Nature lover/Outdoorswoman. I don’t much like camping, even though I come from a family of campers, backpackers and one Eagle Scout. I used to like going on good, hearty day hikes, and I keep thinking I should take advantage of our amazing wilderness hiking opportunities in the East Bay. But then, on the weekends, stuff comes up. … a soccer game. … cleaning out the garage. … this blog.

So—given that I haven’t made a state park visit a priority in my life recently—why does Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s announcement that he wants to close 80 percent of California’s 280 state beaches, forest areas, and historic parks–including, notably, Mt. Diablo State Park–really hit hard?

More, I’m afraid to admit, than news that the recession and our state’s fiscal crisis means the lay-off of teachers (including one of my son’s former teachers), social workers who investigate child abuse cases, sheriff’s deputies, and deputy district attorneys? These are people all doing valuable work, and work I respect and care about.

Okay, so maybe my priorities are all out of whack, and, yes, I didn’t vote in the May 19 election. So, as some have previousl said, I have no right to complain about the drastic measures the governor and legislators say they need to take.

Sure, fine.

Nonetheless, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling a sense of shock, maybe outrage by this state park closure proposal. I noticed that today’s print version of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Letters to the Editors was devoted to people’s anguish about this proposal.

People have a lot of reasons for their anguish about the parks. A representative with Save Mt. Diablo, a Walnut Creek-based nonprofit dedicated to preservation of the mountain and surrounding open space, says the proposal makes little fiscal sense. The state parks are a major tourist draw for California, he said, and the presence of many parks, including Mt. Diablo State Park, pump more money into the local and state economies than they pull from the state general fund.

But more than money, California’s expanses of nature are essential to its identity and its international allure. Sure, we have movie stars, Silicon Valley, “Beserkley,” and the Mayor of Castro Street. But we’re also known for our Western frontier of rugged mountains, deserts, and endless summer beaches.

For East Bay suburbanites, Mount Diablo is it: the Center of our Universe, geographically, culturally, historically, and (for some) mythologically and spiritually.

I think it’s an intrinsic human need to climb to the top of things—ladders, buildings, towers, and mountains. We need to look down on a view, not just because it’s pretty and even breathtaking—as it is from Mt. Diablo on one of those sparkling clear winter days. But that’s how we get our bearings, our perspective. That’s how we know where we are—in space and n time—and who we are.

What will we lose if we can’t drive, hike, bike, or even run to the top of Mt. Diablo and look down?

Save Mt. Diablo and the State Park Foundation have launched a campaign to send tens of thousands of faxes to Arnold and our legislators. This link will allow you to take 15 seconds to send them a fax, asking them to minimize these cuts. It’s all written out. You just need to fill in your name and contact information and hit “send.”

Some 100 people spoke against closure of state parks and access to other natural resources at an Assembly Budget Conference Committee meeting late Tuesday afternooon, the San Francisco Examiner reported. Those speaking asserted that people will still go on parklands and beaches but the land and people won’t be protected by rangers and lifeguards, leading to massive costs from wildfires or litigation if people are hurt. Someone testifying also pointed out that the Governor’s proposal to cut $70 million by closing California State Parks, would cost the California economy $46 billion in tourism dollars.

7 thoughts on “Letter-writing effort by Save Mt. Diablo to save Mt. Diablo, and why does news of state park closures cut us to the core?

  1. If you have to choose between health care for children, aides for disabled people who can't live independently; and parks — I choose human health, life, and dignity first. By far.
    And I'm a huge nature lover and outdoorsperson.


  2. Who says you have to choose? And funny you list health care for children first, don't you think access to nature is an integral part of health care? Why only pay to fix when they are sick and not try to prevent disease by taking your children into the nature?


  3. I say that nothing and I MEAN NOTHING! will keep me from enjoying Mt. Diablo. There are lots of ways to “sneak” onto the mountain without being detected.


  4. Instead of saying “don't cut this or that” it would be much more helpfup if people would say what they would like to see cut. Cuts are coming. There is no doubt about that.

    Oh, and if you are wondering, I'd like to see taxes and entry fees raised instead of programs cut.


  5. I read in the Chronicle a while back that parks are responsible for something like .26% of the states budget and that for every dollar spent on the parks, they bring in about $2.35 to the park itself and surrounding businesses. It just doesn't make business sense to close parks, I think this is all posturing and punishment of the public by the governator.

    I mountain bike in the foothills of Mt. Diablo a couple of times a week and will still be out there regardless.


  6. Masterlock,

    I think the issue with the parks is that the park expenses need to be paid NOW while revenue comes in later. This works well when there is good cash flow. Right now there is no cash flow and there is no money to front to the parks while waiting for revenue to stream in.


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