Park funds for the future

Gov. Brown’s offer of future matching funds is probably as good as we’re going to get

What should be done with that $20.4 million in “hidden” State Parks funds, now that volunteers have raised enough money to keep open the 70 parks slated for closure?

Gov. Jerry Brown says he wants to use the money on repairs and as matching funds to solicit future donations. The volunteers of the Bidwell Mansion Community Project, who worked around the clock to raise $140,000, want the state to match the money they’ve collected.

In an Aug. 10 letter to the governor, the BMCP states that volunteers were “stunned” and “offended” by the news of the “secret funds.” They want Brown to do an investigation to identify the “culprits” behind the secret funds and correct what “has been an inadequate if not actionable accounting system.”

The matching funds equal to what was raised would be used, the letter states, to facilitate local efforts to find a “sustainable solution to keeping the parks open,” with the balance of funds to go to deferred maintenance and site-specific programs and equipment needs.

It’s a good idea, but let’s face it, the governor has more clout than the BMCP. This is a guy who’s scratching up money wherever he can, as Chico city officials know all too well. He wants to keep the volunteer fundraising going well into the future.

It’s a terrible way to fund the parks, but, given the state’s fiscal woes, right now it’s the only way. The best thing the BMCP and its ally, the Bidwell Mansion Association, can do is fine-tune their pitch for future matching funds. In the meantime, they should continue to insist on a full accounting from the state.