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Should California Give Some State Parks to the National Park Service?

March 8, 2012

By Matt Artz

(An open letter to California Governor Jerry Brown)

It was a sad day when state budget cuts forced the closure of many California State Parks, and recent vandalism at Mitchell Caverns after the park was shuttered now has many people worried about the vulnerability of these California jewels left unprotected.  But it didn’t necessarily have to be this way.  Mitchell Caverns is but one example of an odd situation in the California State Park system: a separately administered and maintained State Park completely surrounded by a National Park (in this case, Mojave National Preserve).

At a time when California needs to carefully watch every penny and California State Parks are suffering, why would the State of California pay to maintain a separate park located adjacent to (or even contained completely within) a National Park?  Wouldn’t it make good fiscal sense to merge these parks together and realize a savings by eliminating redundant administrative and management costs?

Tomales Bay State Park.

Tomales Bay State Park is located with the boundaries of Point Reyes National Seashore. Merging such adjacent State and National Parks could significantly reduce administrative and management costs.

Mitchell Caverns may be an odd situation, but it’s certainly not a unique one.  A quick glance at a map reveals many potential opportunities for such mergers:

  • Del Norte Coast State Park, Jedediah Smith State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park are located adjacent to Redwood National Park.
  • Tomales Bay State Park is located with the boundaries of Point Reyes National Seashore.  In addition, Marconi Conference Center State Historic Park is located within 2,000 feet of Point Reyes National Seashore.
  • Mount Tamalpais State Park surrounds Muir Woods National Monument and is located adjacent to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  McNee Ranch State Park is located adjacent to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
  • Providence Mountains State Recreation Area and Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve are located with the boundaries of the Mojave National Preserve.
  • Topanga State Park, Red Rock Canyon State Park, Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Point Mugu State Park, Will Rogers State Historic Park, Will Rogers State Beach, Topanga State Beach, Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Point Dume State Beach, El Pescador State Beach, El Matador State Beach, and Dan Blocker State Beach are located within or adjacent to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

A more comprehensive inventory and evaluation may reveal even more opportunities for synergy between the state and national systems.  Merging specific California State Park lands together with National Park Service lands would have at least two benefits:

  • The State of California can reduce administration and management costs while guaranteeing the integrity of these sites.
  • Landholdings which are today separated by arbitrary administrative boundaries can be unified to form more cohesive landscapes and ecosystems.

Is merging specific some California State Parks with National Parks the right thing to do?  More study is needed.  These parks are like shinning jewels, and we owe it to our children and ourselves to keep them both open and protected.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Allen Widdows permalink
    March 8, 2012 9:25 pm

    This is an excellent idea, and there is precedent for it–after all, Yosemite started out as a state park in the 1860s and was handed over to the federal government in 1903. The only problem lies in whether or not the National Park Service has the money to absorb and maintain these sites, with the federal government looking at deficit reduction. In the case of Providence Mountains SRA, a lot of maintenance was deferred and with the damage of the recent break in, there will be a lot of expensive work to do to reopen the site to the public. Hopefully this will come to pass, and hopefully, it will happen soon.

  2. Fred Richter permalink
    August 28, 2013 6:50 pm

    You missed one, although it does not involve a National Park, but a National Forest. Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve is located within the boundaries of the Mono Lake National Forest Scenic Area. The lands are not very difficult to manage, some 18,000 acres along the shoreline of the lake. The majority of shoreline lands are being administered by the Forest Service already and they are the most visited part of the lake, with two exceptions at the Old Marina and the shoreline lands just below Mono County’s Mono Lake County Park.

    I was surprised that this was not considered an alternative when the closure list came out with this state park unit on it. It makes a great deal of sense.

  3. Fred Richter permalink
    August 28, 2013 7:05 pm

    I didn’t mention some additional state parks located within or adjacent to a National Forest. The state parks on the coast between Big Sur and Hearst Castle are located adjacent to or within the boundary of the Los Padres National Forest. There are additional situations of this type in northern California, such as Plumas Eureka and others.

    In southern California San Jaciento State Park is located within the boundary of the San Bernardino National Forest and a new BLM-USFS administered national monument as well.

    The Forest Service has been cut back severely, and just like the National Park Service, it is difficult to imagine them being able to take over these parks. If the Forest Service takes over some state parks they are going to have to do a better job at people management and interpretation, something the National Park Service is doing an outstanding job with.

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