Governor, get some answers

Elizabeth Goldstein is president of the California State Parks Foundation.

The California State Parks Foundation is greatly dismayed about the irregularities that have surfaced from the California Department of Parks and Recreation recently.

Our state-park system is and always has been bigger than any governmental bureaucracy. For the last 14 months, CSPF has publicly and repeatedly made the urgent case for citizen volunteerism, activism and, most critically, financial contributions to keep our parks open. Our efforts and the efforts of dozens of community organizations to raise funds is one of the reasons there is a temporary but real safety net for the parks that were slated for closure.

That case for the public’s attention and support for our state parks remains. Yet, the recent news has damaged the public’s confidence and undermined the urgency and necessity CSPF and park partners across the state so clearly and vehemently articulated.

There are few other symbols of our state’s greatness, our collective history and our very identity as our state parks.

We support all efforts to legitimately obtain answers as to how and why these irregularities occurred, and ensure they never happen again. As those inquiries begin, we have suggested to state leaders the following four points as a framework for immediate policy actions.

First, an independent audit should be conducted by the state auditor. Other investigations underway should continue, but it is critical that an autonomous and unimpeded audit be conducted.

Second, the $54 million in “found” funds must be dedicated to state parks and recreation purposes as originally intended.

Third, funds that will be appropriated to the state-park system’s operations should be used to keep parks open now in a way that matches or leverages the contributions of communities across the state and provide seed funding for enterprise projects and proposals that will generate revenue.

And, fourth, a qualified, independent body of dedicated and skilled citizens that ensures transparency, public engagement, and participation must be empowered to oversee and guide the DPR. The existing State Park & Recreation Commission might be strengthened to serve this role.

In the days, weeks and months to come, we stand ready, as we have for 43 years, to work as a partner on behalf of our members and the millions of Californians and tourists who enjoy our state parks.