We thank our partner-sponsors of OpenRoad with Doug McConnell, Kaiser Permanente , East Bay Regional Park District and Lake County, California for making the series possible.
WATCH THE EPISODE 109 VIDEO
SUPPORT CALIFORNIA'S STATE PARKS
-- Doug McConnell
I hope you enjoyed our journeys in Hawaii and will travel there yourself soon enough. The human and natural histories of the islands are fascinating and the environment is, of course, extraordinarily beautiful. Hawaii calls, that's for sure, but it's not a cheap getaway from the mainland...and that's keeping many of us "stateside" now in this harsh economy.
The good news is, for those of us who live in the West, we have wonderful places to visit right in our own backyards. We can have world-class vacations without really leaving home.
For example, I live in northern California, not far from Olompali State Park which we featured with legendary drummer, Mickey Hart, in this show. Olompali is just one of California's several hundred state parks, some of the Golden State's crown jewels. The first official state park in California was Big Basin, near Santa Cruz, which was established in 1902. In the past 107 years, California has created the largest state park system in the nation. These parks protect the state's environment, interpret the complex and fascinating stories of the state, provide recreational opportunities to many millions of people every year and serve as important engines of California's tourist economy.
When I was a kid growing up in California, people of all political stripes were proud of the fine public education and park systems that had been created here. Now, tragically, California's educational and state park systems have fallen into serious disrepair....and in this economic crisis word has just come down from Sacramento that 80% of our state parks will be closed and boarded up beginning early this September. Olompali, which helped shape the nurturing social and environmental values of Mickey Hart, and I'm sure many others, will be one of more than 200 parks to be shut down. In a word, this is outrageous.
In times of great social stress, we need our parks more than ever. They are essential investments in our health and well-being, and they are inexpensively accessible to people of all ages, all cultures and all levels of income. They restore and renew us, they bring us together and connect us to nature and history, and they appeal to our finer selves. To lose them now is a tragedy beyond measure. And their closure will do little to close a yawning budget gap created in large measure by governmental dysfunction, incompetence and shortsightedness. We need a fundamental overhaul of our political system....not the closure of our finest public treasures.
My heart is breaking for the California I know so well and love so deeply. My family has been in California for nearly 140 years, and I can't believe what we are allowing to happen to our most important social institutions, such as our parks...created and sustained over many decades by Republicans and Democrats alike. We have lost a sense of public service for the greater good, and have allowed the politics of bitterness, self-righteousness and self-interest, and government by recall and initiative to hold sway. When I was young, and two of my mentors in college and graduate school were Republican, Hugh Flournoy and Democrat, Jesse Unruh, political leaders on both sides of the aisles would argue like cats and dogs, reach generally reasonable compromises, go have a drink together and get ready for combat and compromise the next day. We now have system of term-limited legislators from safe seats who don't have much experience, won't be around long
and have no need to compromise, and they have to pass budgets by super-majorities. There are many good people still doing good work, but the fact is that Sacramento is in shambles. Our state government needs fixing fast. So here's my simple proposal.
Assemble a Constitutional Convention. Gather delegates sworn to uphold the public interest. Demand the best from them and scrutinize their efforts. And have them gather on hallowed ground somewhere, a place that might inspire the greatness we so desperately need and that California so richly and at long last deserves. Let's see, how about a State Park somewhere? Just a thought.
In the meantime, no matter what, we have to keep our state parks open. To find out more and how you can help, follow this link to the California State Parks Foundation, www.calparks.org. We need a voice for parks and they are speaking as loudly as anyone.