Sonoma County's most popular state parks could be closed to the public unless local governments or other groups offer creative ways to staff the parks at no expense to the state.
California State Parks officials announced the closures Friday as part of an effort to slash $22 million from the budget by closing 70 of the 278 parks in the system, including Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, Sugarloaf Ridge just outside the city, Jack London in Glen Ellen and 20 other North Coast parks.
State officials have previously threatened to close parks but later backed down after slashing the budget through service reductions, such as closing campgrounds and bathrooms.
The release Friday of a list of closures comes only days before Gov. Jerry Brown releases his revised budget expected to call for tax extensions, and under threat of more cuts from Republican lawmakers.
Is the list political theater or is it real?
Park officials on Friday said the parks would close unless outside groups raised the funds to keep them open. "This is a permanent cut and we don't expect there to be any backing off," State Parks Director Ruth Coleman said. "The cut is real."
Closures are expected to start after Labor Day but could come as late as next summer. All 70 parks on the list are expected to be closed by July 1, 2012.
In Sonoma County, the closure list also included Austin Creek State Recreation Area near Guerneville and Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park.
Five Mendocino County Parks are on the list as are two in Napa County and one in Lake County.
Perhaps most difficult would be the closure of Annadel, a park of more than 5,000 acres nestled in populous Santa Rosa's eastern neighborhoods, said Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart.
"I don't think it's acceptable to the people of this county to have Annadel closed," Hart said. "We have to take this incredibly seriously. This is a crisis for parks at this point."
Ananadel is part of of complex of three adjoining parks that includes Spring Lake, a a 320-acre county regional park, and Howarth, a 28-acre Santa Rosa city park.
State officials have been brainstorming with Hart and other Sonoma County park officials on ways to jointly operate and maintain the parks to keep them open, Coleman said.
She promoted that kind of collaboration during a Friday conference call about the closures. "It's possible if the county can step up," Coleman said. "We have a gap that has to be filled."
The county's parks department currently is attempting to reduce its upcoming budget by just more than $1 million, a 25 percent cut from its general fund demanded of all county departments.
Nevertheless, Hart, who also heads the the State Park<NO1>cq<NO> and Recreation Commission, said the county may be able to help operate and maintain some state parks. But that would require a huge effort among Sonoma County park users to buy regional passes and raise funds to support the park.
"It's possible, but it really comes down to funding," Hart said.
The county park system has about 9,800 members who buy the annual $69 pass. Hart said they could triple their membership numbers or raise the price to generate the funds to assist state parks.