The main gate will be open today at Annadel State Park.
Hikers, joggers, mountain bikers, naturalists, equestrians and other friends of Annadel raised more than $200,000 to keep it open, and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department agreed to assume responsibility for the 5,000-acre park on the east edge of Santa Rosa.
That's worth celebrating, but don't get carried away. Annadel was spared, not saved, and its future isn't assured beyond next summer.
The same can be said of most of the 70 parks once slated to close today as a state budget-cutting measure. The list included Sugarloaf State Park, Jack London and Petaluma Adobe state historic parks and Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Sonoma County, plus a half-dozen parks in Lake, Marin, Mendocino and Napa counties.
Private benefactors, nonprofit groups, concessionaires, the National Park Service and other public agencies are taking over most of the parks on the hit list. Only five are still slated to close.
However, with a handful of exceptions, the operating agreements are good for just one year. One of the exceptions is Sugarloaf, where a coalition of nonprofit groups dubbed "Team Sugarloaf" has a five-year management agreement.
But make no mistake, this is a stopgap, not a solution. Still, it's better than locking the gates.
Campgrounds and museums should be open, but there may be no rangers on patrol, and upkeep, already sadly lacking at many parks, will be an even lower priority.
California's state parks are a source of inexpensive recreation. They're also repositories of state history, scenic nature preserves and valuable assets for surrounding communities, generating economic activity and local tax revenue far in excess of Sacramento's dubious projection of $22 million a year in state budget savings.
More than 85 million people visit California state parks every year. Today, as the state starts its new fiscal year, visitors still can hike to Lake Ilsanjo and Bald Mountain, prowl the remains of Jack London's Wolf House, visit the headquarters of Gen. Mariano Vallejo's 19th century rancho and camp in the backcountry at Austin Creek.
The list of people who deserve credit for preventing the closure of these parks is long. We don't know all of them, but we do know they'll need help in the months ahead to keep the parks open.
It's probably fitting that the Friends of Annadel are marking the first day of county management with a $10-per-person fundraising breakfast at 9 a.m. at Spring Lake, the adjacent county park.
State legislators, meanwhile, are pursuing several worthwhile ideas for funding state parks, including special state parks license plates, paying for annual day-use passes with income tax refunds, creating public-private partnerships to manage parks and enlisting technology to ensure that fees get collected.
You can do your part. Visit a state park. And when you do, pay the entrance fee. Better yet, buy an annual pass and use it regularly. We'll see you in the park.
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