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Next step for state parks

After Gov. Jerry Brown announced last week his plan to direct millions of surplus dollars from a newly discovered parks department fund towards maintaining and keeping state parks open, advocates from the Save the Petaluma Adobe organization began creating a "maintenance wish list" of issues they say have been shelved in years past, in the hopes that some state dollars will be sent their way.

"We have roughly $200,000 of high priority repairs and deferred maintenance," said Save the Petaluma Adobe Chairman Philip Sales, "everything from replacing the septic system to improving the walkway. Given the fact that we've already raised the $70,000 to keep the park open for the year, that's how we would like to use any state funds we receive."

Earlier this year the California parks department said budget cuts would force them to close 70 parks statewide, including the Petaluma Adobe Historic Park. Nonprofits and donors across the state rallied after the announcement, raising enough money to keep every park from closing. When the news broke that the parks department had a $54 million surplus stashed away all along, morale in the parks community sank, as many organizations felt duped by the state.

One of the main concerns for park organizers has been that $54 million is only enough to keep state parks slated for closure open for one more year. Sales said that even with the extra money this year, his organization and many others would be still be faced with raising funds to keep their local parks open next year.

The other concern has been what Gov. Brown will decide to do with the excess funds. Of the $54 million, approximately $34 million is reserved for off-road vehicle parks, leaving $20 million available to all other state parks. Gov. Brown said Friday that the money will be used to keep state parks open, fix serious maintenance issues and match donor contributions.

Local State Assemblymember Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said in a statement Friday that he is pleased with the Governor's decision.

"While we have a lot more work to do to restore public trust and confidence," Huffman said, "ensuring that these funds go to support parks at risk of closure, and to bolster the generosity of the donors and nonprofits who have stepped up in a big way is an essential first step."

While Sales agrees with Huffman and supports Brown's decision, he said he hopes that the Petaluma Adobe State Park isn't overlooked in getting funds simply because his group has already raised enough money to keep the park open for the full year, while other nonprofits are having to raise funds as the year progresses.

"We did our job and got it done, so we hope that we aren't going to be told that we've raised the money and are out luck," said Sales.

Sales said that the parks department asked the nonprofit to submit a list of the highest priority projects to be considered for possible state funding. Save the Petaluma Adobe is still finishing its list of priority projects, which will be submitted to the organization's board for approval at their Aug. 14 meeting and then forwarded to the state.


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