Study Says State Parks Pay for Themselves

Researchers say Governor's push to eliminate money for state parks is counterproductive

SAN DIEGO -- A team of researchers at Sacramento State University say California's parks system more than pays for itself, eliminating the need to close several popular parks, including some here in San Diego.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget proposal pushes for cutting $70 million that the state is expected to spend on parks through June 30, 2010. Another $143.4 million would be saved in the following fiscal year by keeping the parks closed.

Among the sites that could be closed to visitors: Torrey Pines State Beach, Torrey Pines State Reserve, Silver Strand State Beach, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Carlsbad State Beach, Palomar Mountain State Park, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park.

But according to researchers at Sacramento State University's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Administration, closing those parks would be a bad move.

According to Capitol Weekly, researchers looked at survey results taken from the fall of 2007 through this February. They found California state parks are visited 75 million times each year.

These visitors, in turn, spend $4.3 billion in "park-related expenditures" each year. This money generates $300 million in sales tax revenue to state government. This includes $122 million in sales tax revenue each year generated by out of state visitors.

Researchers found even as the economy struggles, people still visit California's parks.  "People were continuing to visit state parks, even when travel costs were very high...I think there is a lot of indication that people are choosing parks because they're near to home," said Dr. Anthony Sheppard, a professor in the Parks and Tourism Department.

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The park cuts are among $18 billion worth of cuts the governor has proposed to lawmakers faced with a $24.3 billion deficit.

Complete List: 220 California State Parks to Close

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