"If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things. The powers-that-be can break up any big thing they want. They can corrupt it or co-opt it from the inside, or they can attack it from the outside. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They break up two of them, and three more like them spring up!"
- Pete Seeger, in YES! Magazine

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Keep our State Parks Open

The project:
Spread the word about proposed state parks closures and take action by writing to my legislators.

1 hour

Why bother?
As you may have heard, our legislators are slated to decide later this week whether or not to close 220 of California's state parks in an effort to "balance the budget." (Here's the map of proposed closures - breathtaking!)

I understand this need to balance the budget, but I don't know that closing these parks will do the trick. Further, I believe closing public spaces where hard-working (and not-so-hard-working) citizens let off steam, regroup, renew themselves in whatever fashion best fits them is detrimental to humanity.

Worth it?
Time will tell...
Please consider writing a quick note to your legislator. The easiest way may be through this site, which includes a map of the proposed closures and a pre-fab letter you can "sign" and send on. Though the site is run by a non-profit which also seeks donations and memberships there is NO NEED TO JOIN or pay a CENT to sign the letter (or pen your own and send it by this method).

I wrote my own letter and have included it below. Feel free to use it any way you see fit.

Thanks for your time!

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Dear (name a legislator/ official),

As a single-income family raising two children while attempting to have a balanced budget and also paying for daily needs like food, shelter, and a variety of taxes, I appreciate that balancing a budget is no easy task. HOWEVER, as hard-working families trying to raise healthy children in these modern times, I also understand the necessity of families getting out together for recreation, finding time together particularly in the great outdoors. So it was with GREAT surprise that I received your proposal to CLOSE state parks, funded by those same tax dollars we take time AWAY from our families to pay through hours upon hours of work.

Closing or otherwise limiting access to public lands, including State Parks, is NOT the answer to providing for the physical and mental well-being of the citizenry. In San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, where we live, work and play, most of the land is already privately owned and, thereby, inaccessible to the public. State Parks provide some of the last open space we have in which to stretch our legs, climb a peak, take a run, educate our children about nature. The historical state parks throughout the state provide the citizenry with a look into the past that no textbook or television show can provide. In northern Santa Barbara County where we live, access to one of only two local public beaches has been severely truncated by Vandenberg Air Force Base which, after allowing passage through its property for the public to gain access to publicly20held beaches for decades, has opted this year to deny that access.

This proposed closure announcement certainly comes at an odd time. Governors, mayors, representatives of entertainment industries and state officials nationwide are initiating programs to encourage children and their families to head outdoors to experience their communities and their natural spaces. The growing movement to entice families away from the keyboard, the remote control, the game system controls and back to nature has taken hold in several states:
• The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection is promoting its No Child Left Inside program which encourages families to make use of the state’s 137 state parks.
• Texas has launched It’s Better Outside.
• In January 2007, the U.S. Forest Service launched More Kids in the Woods
• The National Audubon Society has opened dozens of education centers in recent years and has a dozen more in the works, most catering to elementary-school aged kids.
• In April 2008, the California Roundtable on Recreation, Parks and Tourism adopted the California Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights recommending a fundamental list of experiences every child in the state would benefit from before reaching high school age. The activities include: fishing, swimming, hiking, camping, exploring state history, nature and heritage and playing on a team.

According to a June 2008 article in The Washington Post, only 8 percent of children ages 9 to 12 spend time in outdoor activities such as hiking, walking, fishing, gardening or beach play, a reduction from 16 percent in 1997. The study by Sandra Hofferth, a family studies professor at the University of Maryland, also showed an increase in computer play time for all children and in time spent on television and video games for those ages 9 to 12. And it found increases in sleep time, study time and reading time.

Crime is on the rise, test scores are down, frustration levels are up and people, like in no other time in history, feel the need to get away from it all to blow off steam, to flee the rush and traffic and hectic lifestyle that our working lives in cities provide.

PLEASE don’t close our parks. We go to work, pay our taxes and do the best we can for our families and communities. We NEED somewhere to play, somewhere to enjoy nature, somewhere to bond as families and communities. There’s no place like nature for those opportunities.


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