Authors Note: The state of California has adopted our plan, without acknowledgement, of course. I sent the Executive Director of Calparks Org. a letter outlining our plan in August 2009, shortly after I published the blog article.
California's parks need not close. They need not fail our citizens and our communities, and we need not lose this important heritage.
California's park system is in danger because of the dreadful budget problems in our state. Closure of parks endangers not only the livelihood of those who work in the parks, but also the communities that rely on revenue generated by the associated tourism.
In desperate times like these, old ideas with a new spin can keep our parks out of private hands and open for everyone's benefit and enjoyment. Let the communities take care of the parks.
Communities surrounding parks could establish cooperatives, where the people who work at the park would be funded by park entrance fees. Workers could live at the park in exchange for taking lower pay, and accumulate points based on years of service toward a life-estate ownership interest in a small parcel of land suitable to build a modest sustainable dwelling in, say, five years.
Workers would be chosen by a governing board, at the outset. Once established, the workers themselves would choose new workers based on commitment and knowledge of the park. In this way, those who work there would have a stake in the park as well as the community. To assure that park professionals would have a role, their applications would receive priority treatment.
Title to the park itself would remain with the state, but the revenues would stay with each park. It may be necessary to institute or increase entrance fees to make this model work, but it would be far better than either facing the closure of our parks or turning parks over to the private sector.
Deborah Lagutaris, J.D.
Harris Freeman, M.B.A.