Parks Forward calls for ‘transformation’ of CA system

Parks Forward calls for ‘transformation’ of CA system

state park logoCalifornia parks are the wonder of the world. But citizens also have been aware of fundamental problems since a 2012 scandal found the California Department of Parks and Recreation kept a $20 million “slush fund” — while crying poor mouth over its budget.

A new report calls for a “transformation” of the system to better meet the needs of Californians. The report is by the Parks Forward Commission, which was established by the Legislature and appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown. It found:

After many public meetings and testimony from hundreds of park users, advocates, partners, employees, and others, the Commission recommends a fundamental transformation of the California Department of Parks and Recreation (Department), a rededication to working with park partners, and an expansion of park access to reach all Californians. We are heartened by the Department’s recent indications that it intends to embrace these recommendations, and believe that if the Department – with support from its partners – works diligently to implement our plan over the long term, California’s State Park System can once again become a shining star of California innovation.

Recommended actions include:

• Create a transformation team to lead modernization and realignment of the Department.

• Vest greater authority with field level staff, closer to where services are provided.

• Create an organizational structure which performs critical Department-wide program assessments, and costing and priority setting that is credible and consistent across park units.

• Recruit, mentor, and retain diverse staff reflective of the state’s demographic make-up.

Of note is the “expansion of park access to reach all Californians.” The report notes that most parks are not near population centers, especially those where the increasing Hispanic population lives.

But except for the state beaches in cities, a state park almost by definition is going to be away from population centers. Maybe if the state fixed its clogged and pot-holed roads, and canceled the new cap-and-trade gas-tax hike, more people would drive out to the parks.

Access

The report recommends:

Improving park access for California’s underserved communities and urban areas requires parks that meet the particular needs of these communities, which means areas for active recreation like soccer fields, larger picnic areas for multi-generational family gatherings, special events, multi-lingual historic and cultural resource interpretation, and accessible overnight lodging alternatives. The Department effectively supports many of these park uses through its state bond-supported community grants program.

The success of the Department’s local grants program has shown regional and local park agencies are often best at providing these on-the-ground services, and demonstrates the critical coordinating role the Department can play in expanding park options for traditionally underserved communities. Future public funding measures should include additional funding for the Department to continue its community grants program, enabling the Department to continue playing a strategic role in expanding local parks and creating a broader neighborhood park system that connects state, regional, and local parks.

Maybe that would be similar to how the state in recent years has shifted the burden of prisons to local governments. But budget conflicts like this often end up being turf wars.

“Future funding measures” would mean prying more money out of a Legislature that has competing demands from schools and social programs, including Covered California/Obamacare.

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  1. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 2 February, 2015, 19:37

    “Transformation” …the new government “buzz word”. Please… you can label anything government does with any buzz word you want, it will still never, ever, work or function like a well managed company… a well coached athletic team…. a well oiled machine. But you KNOW they will earn 10-20 times what their market value skills are worth in a free market.

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