By Deborah Lagutaris, J.D. and Harris Freeman, MBA
California’s parks need not close. They need not fail our citizens and our communities, and we need not lose this important heritage.
California’s park system is in danger because of the serious budget problems in our state. The closure of the parks endangers not only the livelihood of those who work in the parks, but also the communities that rely on revenue generated by the associated tourism.
In desperate times like these, old ideas with a new spin can keep our parks out of private hands and open for everyone’s benefit and enjoyment.
Let the communities take care of the parks. Establish a community cooperative at each park, where the people who work there earn their living by taking a share of the entrance fee. Workers could live at the park in exchange for taking lower pay, and earn accumulated points toward owning a small parcel of land on which to build a modest dwelling after, say, five years.
Workers would be chosen by a governing board, at the outset. Once established, the workers themselves would choose new workers. In this way, those working there would have a stake in the park as well as the community. To assure that park professionals would have a role, their applications would receive priority treatment.
Title to the park itself would remain with the state, but the revenues would stay with each park. It would likely be necessary to institute or increase entrance fees to make this model work, but it would be far better than a. allowing the park to deteriorate or close, or b. turning parks over to the private sector.