3 Money Myths About CA State Parks

16 Sep

70 of 278 California State Parks are closing by 2012. That means 25% of our existing state parks will be inaccessible to the public. Historic parks, coastal access, fragile ecosystems, archaeological assets, and irreplaceable resources are at risk. I’ve talked about the emotional, social and philosophical reasons for preserving parks. For those of you who still aren’t convinced, let’s just talk the numbers.

Myth 1: Closing Parks Helps Reduce The CA Deficit

By Labor Day 2012, 70 California State Parks will be closed in the name of deficit reduction and broader fiscal responsibility. But closing 25% of our parks to reclaim one-tenth of 1% percent of a $26bn deficit doesn’t make financial sense, especially considering that parks generate $4bn in tourism revenues annually (2). And while it’s important to not forget about our state’s current economic problems, also remember that Yosemite was founded in the first months of rubble following the Civil War, and that the majority of California State Parks system was created during the Great Depression.

Myth 2: Park Employees Make Too Much Money

Detractors of CA Parks across the web and on my blog talk about a bloated, mismanaged parks department. Many believe CA Parks  need to “cut the fat” and learn to do more with less. Most people don’t realize that the Department of Parks and Recreation has been operating below budget for the last 20 years. The biggest cost is salaries. Many people believe CA Parks employees are overpaid, but consider these facts:

The average CA State Employee earns about $57,000 a year (3). The average Department of Parks and Rec salary is about $40,000 a year. 5000 of 6000 Department of Parks and Rec employees earn less than the state average. (1) 66% of employees earn less than $40,000/year (1) 33% employees earn less than $10,000/year. (1)

Myth 3: CA Parks’ Upper Management Is Overpaid

Some people think the problem is an upper management team that earns far too much while doing too little. Consider this:

The top CA Department of Parks and Rec employee made just under $190,000 a year in 2010 (1). The top CA State Employee, a UC Berkeley coach, (yes, a state employee) earned about $2,3oo,ooo in 2010 (1). To reach $2.3 million, you have to add up the top 15 California Department of Parks & Rec employees.


And while you’re considering that, consider this: The top 5 coaches in the State System earned about $10m in 2010. The top 8 professors also earned about $10 million. You’d have to add up the top 150 California Department of Parks and Rec employees to reach $10 million.


(1): California State Controller’s Office
(2): CA Park Excellence Report 2010
(3): US Census Data, By State, CA

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