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California Activists Band to Keep State Parks Open

Remember how California was going to shut down 70 state parks to save money? Well good news: They're saved! Or some of them are. For now, at least.

When California announced last year that it would cut costs by shutting down a whopping 70 state parks, many residents were understandably outraged, and some started fighting to keep the parks open. With California facing a $16 billion projected deficit, a keep-the-parks-open campaign might seem unlikely to succeed, but with the July 1 deadline for the park closures looming, it looks like many of them will actually stay open—even if the state of California is no longer operating them.

The fight to keep the parks open has been truly grassroots, with campaigns popping up all over the state to raise money and lobby for individual parks. There were also statewide campaigns to raise awareness, including an innovative effort by three young filmmakers to travel throughout the state, filming as many of the 70 parks as possible and putting together a documentary. (Their film, The First 70, has been screening across California). And now, with less than a week until the closure deadline, the state parks department has signed partnership agreements with 22 outside groups—most of them nonprofits—allowing them to operate parks on their own. Fourteen more partnership agreements are in the works, and state officials are still evaluating bids to keep more parks open.

There are definitely some big question marks—according to The Sacramento Bee, California has never given control of a park to a nonprofit before, and that may not be the model we want going forward. Moreover, most of the partnership agreements only last one year. But averting so many closures is a real victory for park enthusiasts, and a much-needed reminder that activism works (at least when accompanied by a bit of practicality and business savvy). Whether or not the remaining parks will be saved is yet to be seen—but there’s certainly time left on the clock.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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