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Spain’s Glimpse of Our Future: State Park Secrets

May23

BARCELONA — This just in: The Calbuzz Department of Global Affairs, Tapas y Rioja Division, is on the ground covering the raucous scene surrounding the Spanish local elections — in pursuit of a glimpse of California’s future should Sacramento’s Democrats and Republicans fail to agree on a state budget.

Amid cacophonous banging of pots and pans, thousands of students, workers, families and especially unemployed folks crammed into Placa de Catalunya, protesting the incompetence of the central government and the massive unemployment rate that has put 45% of the young people in Spain out of work.

White flowers and white face signify a preference for the white vote — a statement that neither the parties of the left or right are worth a damn when it comes to managing the economy and public affairs.*

As explained by a handy copy of the New York Times, demands include “improving the judiciary, ending political corruption and overhauling Spain’s electoral structure, notably by ending the system in which candidates are selected internally by the parties before an election rather than chosen directly by voters.”

People we spoke to in Barcelona — sounding just like those you might find in Los Banos or Encinitas — said they’re frustrated by the failure of politicians in both parties to take seriously the needs of average citizens. Thus far, the protests have remained noisy but peaceful. But you can feel an explosive tension just below the surface of people nearly at the end of their rope.

Are you listening Sacramento?

(Top photo credit: Senora Deborita Williams Trounstina, Calbuzz Catalonia Correspondent)

Channeling John Muir, sort of: Here at Calbuzz, we define “getting outdoors” as dining al fresco, a “vigorous hike” as strolling from the hotel lobby to the cab stand and “roughing it” as watching a Giants game from outside a luxury box.

Not surprisingly, it was all a bit confusing when Governor Gandalf announced last week that he is “closing” 70 state parks. Not having much experience with the whole trails-and-woods thing, we wondered what that looked like in real life: Will the governor dispatch the National Guard to set up pastoral perimeters? Set coyotes and bears loose on day pass trespassers? Erect invisible protective shields with Gardol to repel visitors?

So we called on Paul Rogers, Natural Resources and Environment Writer for the San Jose Mercury News, for help. The smartest fella’ we know about your fauna, flora, fur and feather issues, Paul was fresh off the assignment of explaining to his readers what Krusty’s move means for Henry J. Coe State Park and was kind enough to respond to our dumb question: How, exactly, do you “close” a state park?

Good question.  The answer decides on which of the 70 parks we are looking at. Think three levels: easy, moderate and nearly impossible.

Easy: It will/would be easy for the state to close some of the parks on the list. For places like the state mining museum, Santa Cruz Mission and Governor’s Mansion, all they have to do is lock the door and put up a closed sign, then lay off the staff or reassign them to other park units, laying off people there with less seniority.

Moderate: For places like Coe, they can padlock the gates on the entrance roads and parking lots. In some places, where there is only one way in, and the entrance road is fairly long, that will discourage most people. They can also shut off the water and electricity at the campsites and padlock the bathrooms.

If somebody wants to climb over the gate or come in through a side trail, they’ll have no way to stop them. This would mostly be folks hiking and on mountain bikes. As I pointed out in my story, parks folks are privately worried about vandalism, trespassers starting fires that could spread to nearby private property, people poaching with guns, and armed Mexican drug cartels growing even more pot in the larger parks than they are already growing.

Many of the visitors, however, would be kept out, because getting in would involve a fairly strenuous activity, and there are other places to hike or ride bikes that will remain open. Families who camp in these places aren’t likely to carry all their ice chests, camping stoves, tents, etc, over a locked gate and walk half a mile to pitch a tent in a place with no water or bathrooms. College kids on mountain bikes are likely to jump the fence, but if they wreck on a trail and break their collar bone, there won’t be anyone to find them.

With an eye to this, Brown signed AB95 in March, which absolved the state of any liability for people who get hurt in state parks that are closed.

Nearly impossible: There are some places on the list that seem impossible to me to close. Twin Lakes State Beach is one of them. As you know, that’s the beach just south of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor. It is visited by hundreds of thousands of people a year and directly abuts a public road and two neighborhoods. It charges no entrance fee. There are no gates to padlock.

Is State Parks going to post rangers and lifeguards on the beaches and write tickets to anyone who walks on the sand? I can’t imagine how they could do that and still achieve the savings they claim from this plan.

In the end, many of these parks weren’t being patrolled all that well now. As the Coe story notes, there are only 2 rangers there full time, and many functions are being done by volunteers. But at least the rangers are trained peace officers, with EMT training, guns, four wheel drive vehicles and radios.

Although State Parks says such rangers will be making regular checks at shuttered parks in each region, it’s unclear how extensive those will be, what they will cost, and what the consequences will be, if any, for people caught ‘trespassing.’

Far be it from Calbuzz to suggest the park closure announcement is a cynical move by Gandalf to get middle class types – i.e. voters – to make a fuss with GOP legislators to get on board with his tax extension. But it sure sounds to us like a helluva’ lot of work to save a measly $10-20 million.

Paul’s latest on the issue is here. As for keeping parks open, this may help.

ICYMI: Speaking of glimpses of California’s future, check out this way cool racing crash. Is that Governor Krusty on the Number 91 bike?

* One of the young women in our lead photo, Carla Alabern, emailed us after our post to say, in part:

We DO critic the current system and we DO feel that non of the alternatives on which we may vote does represent us. But the aim of the action “Paint your face” is not to suggest to anyone how to vote! The aim is to express and to channel the feeling of frustration and outrage created by the false democracy in which we live, and to inspire the public to action.

The initiative “Paint your face!”  was created by the Barcelona based independent theater group “ProyectA “  as a daily action to support the movement of change that is now happening in our county. Past the elections of the 22 of May, the action continues and is taking place every evening at 19h in Plaza Catalonia, Barcelona. The participation is open to the public.


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  1. avatar dndobson says:

    Businesses that depend on tourists to these closed parks will suffer as folks from the Cites aren’t likely to risk driving to a closed park at all – no matter how hard it might actually be to keep them out.

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