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16 North Coast state parks get reprieve

The announcement that 70 state parks would shut down July 1 because of budget cuts was made last May on, appropriately enough, Friday the 13th.

Shutting parks to let them rot, or worse, be taken over by vandals, pot growers and other ne'er-do-wells, sounded like the plot of a horror movie. Or Sacramento politics.

"I just couldn't believe it," Richard Dale, executive director of the Sonoma Ecology Center, recalled about hearing the news of the closure list, which included 16 parks on the North Coast.

North Coast State Parks Spared From Closure

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The announcement galvanized Sonoma County's parks and open space leaders into action. Out of that grew a new alliance of county government, nonprofit and private groups that, in conjunction with state lawmakers, developed a strategy to keep the parks open.

It worked. Come today, no state parks on the North Coast will close.

They are Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park near Kenwood, Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park and Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Guerneville, as well as eight Mendocino County parks, two in Napa County and one in Lake County.

"It was a pretty remarkable grass-roots effort and more evidence, if we needed any, of the way people in this county feel about their parks," said Ralph Benson, executive director of the Sonoma Land Trust.

Celebrations are planned today at Annadel and Petaluma Adobe, but they represent only a temporary reprieve for these natural resources.

To the dismay of park advocates, Gov. Jerry Brown last week vetoed $31 million the Legislature borrowed from other uses to help the California Parks Department deal with its estimated $1 billion in deferred maintenance. He left $10 million.

"Nobody should assume that we are out of the woods on park closures," Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said Friday. "This $10 million is basically going to buy time."


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