Mary Golden is the Executive Director of the Central Coast Natural History Association, a private nonprofit working in partnership with our local State Parks to support and fund science and nature education from Pismo State Beach to Harmony Headlands State Park. She welcomes stories and comments. Send email to Mary Golden.
Our Hearts Are Not On the Ground
by Mary Golden
As you probably know, Prop 21—Yes For State Parks, failed on November 2, 2010. No one views this in any way as a negative comment on the value of State Parks. Rather, analysts are seeing the defeat of Prop 21 as sending a message to Sacramento legislators to do their job. That being said, nothing has changed. Our parks are still in crisis with a net $14 million loss in funding from two years ago, and continued cuts that will ensure closed parks, fewer services, higher fees, and continued deferred maintenance as we watch our park buildings, historic sites, roads, and trails disintegrate.
Which just means that this fight for stabilized State Park funding isn't over. "A people is not conquered until their hearts are on the ground," is a saying I learned from studying the Lakota wars. While our hearts may be heavy, they are not on the ground.
So, what to do now?
To all of our politicians who said, "there must be a better way to fund State Parks than the State Park Access Pass," lets challenge them to find and implement that better way—now.
To the 43% of people who voted for the State Parks Access Pass as well as the 700 organizations that endorsed Prop 21, let's take that huge amount of political capital and put it to work towards permanently protecting State Parks.
I read many blogs and editorials this campaign season, as well as listened to many people as they called into radio shows. Some of them were downright mean—including one of which who had never been to a State Park, celebrated the defeat of Prop 21, and called State Park supporters "buffalo huggers."
This type of comment just reinforces what we already know. We are raising a generation of Californians who are not connected to State Parks or to nature.
In one or two generations, will we have a majority of citizens who don't care or understand the critical importance of nature, including State Parks, for physical and mental health and overall quality of life? Will they have lost a significant part of what is means to be human?
As we work towards finding a solution for the crisis we are experiencing now, I'd like to challenge all of you to start working on the crisis we will have in that one or two generations. Introduce people to State Parks. Have your children's schools, after school groups, and churches plan trips. Invite your non-naturey friends for a thermos of coffee or a gentle walk. People will not fight to protect what they don't understand.
Just recently a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pompei crumbled to dust. There was no surprise, just outrage that politicians hadn't done their job to protect it.
Let's make sure the California State Park system doesn't crumble into dust. We do have power, and we do have heart.