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Federal funding issue could spare Annadel


Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa is one of 16 state parks that may earn a reprieve from Gov. Jerry Brown's list of proposed closures because they receive more than $287 million in federal money.

Annadel is the only one of Sonoma County's five state parks that could be spared from the closure list announced last month as part of Brown's plan to balance the state budget, state parks spokesman Roy Stearns said Tuesday.

Three Mendocino County parks — Manchester State Beach, Russian Gulch State Park and Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area — also could be exempted from the closure list.

"We don't know exactly how this will play out with all the factors involved," Stearns said.

But State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, hailed the possibility of saving Annadel and other parks as "potentially great news."

"Closing them would simply violate federal law," Evans said in a statement. "I will urge the state Parks Department to reconsider and alter their park closure proposal to take this and other information into account."

Federal parks officials say that California's use of money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund for certain parks amounts to a commitment to keep them open in perpetuity.

To shut down such a park would be "essentially a breach of that contract," National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis told the San Jose Mercury News.

State officials were aware of the federal funding issue when they prepared the list of 70 of California's 278 state parks to be closed, with an anticipated savings of $11 million in the upcoming fiscal year beginning in July and $22 million in each succeeding year, Stearns said.

"We fully anticipated that it would come up," Stearns said, describing the National Park Service as "a good partner for us."

The land and water fund, established in 1964, collects royalties from offshore oil drilling and spends it on land acquisition for national, state and local parks, as well as facilities for state and local parks.

Jarvis said that he was sympathetic to state budget predicaments, but that closing parks was "the wrong place to find those savings."

State Parks Director Ruth Coleman is negotiating with federal parks officials on how the situation might be resolved, Stearns said.

Among the possible alternatives to complete closure are closing a park part of the time or leaving the gate open with no staff or services and allowing the public "to come and go," Stearns said.

A third alternative would be to find a nonprofit group or local government agency to operate a state park, he said.

No parks will close until next year, and the deadline to shut all 70 parks is July 1, 2012.

"We have about a year to figure this out," Stearns said.

Parks in Sonoma County unaffected by the federal funding issue are Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Guerneville, Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park in Petaluma and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Santa Rosa.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed closing 220 state parks two years ago as a cost-saving measure, but dropped the idea in the face of widespread public opposition.

Also on the list of 16 parks that received federal funds are Benbow Lake State Recreation Area in Garberville, Olompali State Historic Park in Novato and Bothe-Napa Valley State Park in Calistoga.