The state parks department on Wednesday sought to clarify remarks that some interpreted to mean that most of the California parks slated to close this summer had been spared.
Parks officials said they are "optimistic" that a number of parks will remain open, including several in Sonoma County. But at present, they said they have agreements that will keep just 11 of the 70 parks open past the July 1 deadline.
The department issued the clarification after one of its top officials told reporters that only 15 of the 70 targeted parks may ultimately close.
The official, Michael Harris, is the parks department's acting chief deputy director.
The agency on Wednesday suggested that Harris' comments were perhaps too definitive.
"It is more accurate to say that a significant number of state parks could remain open if negotiations now under way are successful," the agency stated in a news release.
In addition to the 11 parks already spared, there are 35 parks that officials are hopeful will remain open, according to Roy Stearns, a spokesman for the parks department.
The state originally announced plans to shut 70 of California's 278 parks to achieve $11 million in annual savings sought by Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers.
With the July 1 deadline looming, the parks department is negotiating with local governments, nonprofits and private concessionaires to keep as many of the parks open as possible.
Those parks include Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park near Kenwood, Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen and Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park.
Stearns said officials are "very close" to reaching a decision on Jack London.
He said Parks Director Ruth Coleman is reviewing the agreement submitted by a nonprofit that is seeking to operate the park. The state Department of General Services then has to sign off on the contract.
The state also will be considering a donor agreement with a group that is seeking to keep Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park off the closure list.
The group has achieved its fundraising goal of $70,000, half from an anonymous donor, that it hopes will be enough to keep the park open for an additional year past the July deadline.
"We're basically paying the state to stick around for another year," said Philip Sales, chairman of the Save the Petaluma Adobe Committee. "It doesn't solve the long-term problem."
He said if the state approves the agreement the park will remain open for four days a week. Currently it is open two days a week.
Nancy Kassover has taken students from Happy Valley Elementary School in Lafayette to the Petaluma park for the past 22 years.
"Amidst all this development, this is quite a beautiful place, where they can see a lot of California history," she said Wednesday following another excursion to the park.
You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.