If you are looking for yet another in-your-face example of how budget cuts are affecting life in California, go hiking.

There is a good chance you will see evidence of maintenance cutbacks, and you might even be confronted with locked gates. The LA Times over the weekend provided a tour of what has happened to parks up and down the state as the budget slashing continues.

And, as the story notes, the cutbacks are coming at a time when Californians are venturing out to their parks in increasing numbers.

Park agencies say they are experiencing record attendance as families look for affordable recreation opportunities close to home, In a 2009 survey, more than 80% of California residents said they visited a local park at least once a year; 68% said they visited monthly.

Parks are “the one sweet thing all residents can enjoy,” said San Jose paint salesman Lawrence Valenzuela, who headed to Alum Rock Park on the first day of his vacation, only to find it padlocked.
“Our youth centers are one of the main ways we combat gangs,” he said. “There are no good choices here.”

The crisis facing parks is the worst since the early 1980s, when the passage of Proposition 13 ravaged local government budgets, said Jane Adams, executive director of the California Parks and Recreation Society. Back then, the cuts were immediate. Today, funding shortages seem to be chronic…

Anaheim has eliminated maintenance jobs and privatized the duties. Riverside County will rely on volunteers to clean popular trails. Fullerton will charge sports teams more to keep field lights on at night.

Voice of OC plans to follow this story and report in more detail on what is going on with parks and recreation throughout Orange County. Please email me at dwashburn@voiceofoc.org and tell me what is happening in your community.


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