Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Main Points of Audubon's remarks at today's Supervisors Mtg

1. The Valley already has a serious shortage of recreational opportunities. As residents of the Valley we have to drive farther on average to reach parks, have a disproportionately small share of public lands, and lack the well developed regional park systems that the Bay Area and Coastal Regions enjoy. Low income and minority families use county parks at disproportionate levels. Closing county parks would eliminate some of the few opportunities these families have to enjoy the great outdoors at a reasonable cost.
2. Even when closed, parks would still have to be maintained because residents would continue to have some degree of access to most parks(though this access would be unlawful). Fencing the parks to prevent access would be prohibitively expensive and several parks would still be accessible from adjacent bodies of water. As a result, bathrooms would have to be cleaned, trash picked up, and law enforcement would have to enter parks periodically to control criminal activity. While the parks are closed the County remains exposed to liability for what may happen on park grounds. It is obvious to even the most casual observer that the County would not be able to avoid cost or solve the financial problems they face by closing the parks. According to individuals familiar with the inner workings of county government - park closure has been analyzed in the past and was deemed unworkable then. There is nothing to suggest that the opposite it true now.
4. Other cost saving measures should be explored. It would overly charitable to characterize a group of elected officials as out of touch when they give large raises to administrators one moment and then propose closing parks and cutting jobs the next. Perhaps our Supervisors, who enjoy higher salaries than Supervisors in Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Sacramento Counties, among others should follow the example of El Dorado County Supervisors who are considering cutting their own salaries and expense accounts to get through these tough times. Leadership by example is always welcomed!

Additionally, there are legal issues at hand:
1. Closure of the parks may warrant formal environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act due to the potential impacts of park closure. These include the increased burden on other area parks as a result of a shortage of recreational opportunities, the impact of decreased or altered maintenance patterns of the park system, as well as the impacts of the foreseeable continued use of the parks in absence of proper supervision and maintenance by the County.

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