Previewing California Parks-That-Could-Be

Sunset, May 1988 | Go to article overview

Previewing California Parks-That-Could-Be


Previewing California parks-that-could-be

Hoping in one fiscal swoop to augment California's parks and open space reserves, a coalition of environmentalists, conservationists, and business organizations --plus hundreds of thousands of citizen petitioners--qualified a bond initiative for the state's June ballot. If the California Wildlife, Coastal and Parkland Initiative (Proposition 70) is passed, the state will sell about $776 million in bonds to acquire land for parks and preserves.

On these pages, we guide you to 4 areas out of the more than 70 that would be affected by the initiative.

In the past, money for park acquisition was either set aside in the state budget or raised through bond acts passed by the legislature. Since the Gann Act, which limited state spending, the legislature has resorted more frequently to using bond acts to finance projects such as prisons and schools. Since there is a limit to how much money can be raised this way each year, land acquisition has until now been deferred.

Putting together an environmental wish list

A group of environmentalists decided that leaving land-buying to the future is too dangerous, with pressure for development so great in California. In mid-1986, the Planning and Conservation League, a Sacramento-based lobby group for environmental causes, began to campaign for an initiative, savvily asking groups around the state--the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, city governments, and even local groups that were protecting, perhaps, something so limited as a single bay--to dream up a wish list. What would they buy if they could; what would it cost?

The result was a list of more than 70 areas that could benefit from the passage of such an initiative, and hundreds of volunteers from all the groups, ready to circulate petitions. To qualify for the ballot, 600,000 signatures were needed; more than 735,000 were obtained.

There is some opposition to the initiative, notably by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Farm Bureau, who object that this initiative was not put together using a carefully crafted government plan. Instead, they say, it was assembled piecemeal, with the loudest and best-organized environmental groups nabbing the most money for proposed parks in their own regions.

But generally, because land would be bought at fair market price from owners willing to sell, the initiative has stirred little controversy. Its chances of passing are good; California voters have never turned down a parks and wildlife bond initiative.

From Humboldt County to the Tijuana River

The range of projects that stand to benefit from the initiative represent the state's physical diversity: from Humboldt and Mendocino counties' Sanctuary Forest in the north, which sustains spawning grounds of king salmon, to the flat Tijuana River Sanctuary in the south, preserving dunes and marshes. …

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