Sonoma State University researchers have launched a privately funded project to determine how to keep open five popular state parks in Sonoma County.
The project is funded by $75,000 from an anonymous donor, SSU officials said. A final report is expected in February.
"Looking forward, we need new locally relevant and financially sustainable models for operating the parks. We can't wait for solutions from Sacramento," Caroline Christian, associate professor of environmental studies and planning, said in a statement.
She and Claudia Luke, SSU's director of field stations and nature preserves, head the study, which will analyze "best practices" for managing 15,000 acres of parkland at a time of reduced public funding.
The state budget crisis put about 70 state parks at risk of closure. Nearly all, including four in Sonoma County, got a reprieve after nonprofit groups, county governments and other organizations reached deals with the state to temporarily take over operations.
The SSU team will focus on Annadel, Jack London, Petaluma Adobe and Sugarloaf Ridge parks and the Austin Creek State Recreation Area. The project can be tracked at savesonomaparks.blogspot.com.