Earlier this afternoon, the California Budget Conference Committee voted in favor of Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal, which would sever funding to the California State Park System. Loss.

However, the Committee also voted to recommend something the California State Parks Association recommended last year – a $15 surcharge to non-commercial vehicle registrations, which would allow anyone driving a car with California plates a free day-access pass to any California State Park. BIG WIN. And it would raise about $143 million a year in general fund savings.

While this is only a committee recommendation and no actual action has taken place yet (and, since it requires a 2/3 majority vote in both houses and a signature from the Governor, probably won’t for some time), a free day-pass to any State Park is a huge, huge victory for the State Park system and for the citizens of California.

That $15 tack-on to your vehicle registration is about the same for what you’d pay to visit two – maybe three – State Parks at their current visitation rates. That is a deal and a half!

I wouldn’t be surprised if park attendance didn’t skyrocket if this budget proposal was put into place. And considering a CSU Sacramento study found that park users pump an average of just under $60 into the local economy each time they visit, maybe that’s the main reason the Committee is recommending it. And, of course, because it takes a tremendous stride toward democratizing the state park system.

The California State Parks Foundation has a press release with more info on this, the first in a long line of decisions in the California budget. We will still have to get on our local legislators’ backs about this sometime in the near future.

Topanga Canyon Sunset 1
Sunset in Topanga Canyon State Park

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