By now you've probably heard about closures and cutbacks at some state parks in the USA.
Hardest hit, in the southwest, seems to be Arizona, where thirteen parks are slated to close between now and June 3, 2010, leaving only nine parks open. (Don't think they'll be selling many annual passes this year, as a result). I'm trying to find out whether this means there will be no public access to these parks at all after they close.
New Mexico's approach has been to close all the state parks for five furlough days. Three of these days are already past and the remaining 2010 closure dates are coming up soon: Tuesday, March 2 and Tuesday, March 23.
California made a lot of noise about closing its parks but, in the end, seems to have put off actually doing it, at least for now
I haven't heard or seen any announcements about closures in Texas or Utah (yet).
The short range plan appears to indicate the parks' entrance will simply be gated and guards posted at the gates. No one will be allowed to enter. What a shame to have some of our most beautiful natural resources not available for recreation, not to mention letting the buildings and trails fall into gradual disrepair.
The long term plan, barring some miracle or change in policy, will likely entail either leasing the parks to private enterprise or selling the land altogether.
But, according to Tom Wharton, (The Salt Lake Tribune, Feb 2, 2010)
Just getting rid of parks isn't as easy as it sounds, a fact California discovered. Many park facilities were purchased with federal dollars that come with caveats, requiring repayment if they ever go out of public hands. In Utah, 19 parks have such restrictions. Another 11 have facilities built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which may not look kindly upon seeing federal tax dollars given away to the highest private bidder. What's more, there is no way that even the best private operator could make money on many state park museums... That's the nature of museums, which are built to preserve our heritage, not make money.
It looks complicated and may take years to solve. In the meantime, when traveling through The States this year, if you plan to stop at state parks, you'll certainly want to phone in advance to be sure the park will be open when you get there.