Friday, August 14, 2009

National & California State Parks: Save Money, Show Your Support

Have you heard the hoopla about the Obamas visiting Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon this weekend? Admittedly, this may not be the best time to visit those national parks. But it's still an excellent weekend to visit the USA's other 56 national parks, because August 15-16 is the summer's last free-entry weekend to NPS sites. You can save up to $25 if you visit a top-tier park.

Monday isn't looking so good for California State Parks, though, which announced in a
press release that day-use parking and campground fees will increase on August 17. Day-use parking will now cost a minimum of $5 (up from $2) and overnight fees at campgrounds will range as high as $65, for example, for a prime oceanfront site at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Orange County. That's more than a Motel 6 room! (Note: If you have a pre-existing state park campground reservation, the rate quoted when you made the reservation will still be honored.)

Now, I fully support California State Parks. But raising fees is not a catch-all solution for preventing the closure of 100 state parks following Governor Schwarzenegger's line-item veto budget cuts of an extra $8 million. You know who else is to blame, suggests the L.A. Times? Everyone who regularly cheats by parking their cars just outside the entrance station and walking into the park, instead of paying the day-use parking fee. Next time you visit our state parks, why not do your part and pay?

Here are three more ways that you can support California State Parks during the current fiscal crisis:
  • Buy an annual day-use parking pass ($125). The price of the pass has not gone up since last year, and it still gets you free admission to all state parks that charge a day-use parking fee for one year from the date of purchase. Buy it online here.
  • Join the California State Parks Foundation. If you become a member at the 'Parks Sampler' level ($25), you'll get 7 free day-use parking passes. Join as a 'Frequent Visitor' ($125), and you'll not only get an annual day-use parking pass, but also a day hiker's guidebook to state parks.
  • Buy Knudsen's cottage cheese and sour cream. No, seriously. For every Knudsen's product sold between now and September 6, the company is donating a portion of the proceeds (up to $100,000) to California State Parks.
Photo: William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach (Mike Connolly Jr.)

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