Do you remember the California State Park telling all of us they broke? They would need to close park and cut services? None of it was true. The California’s state parks have stock piled money for years and hid it from auditors.
“No department gets to keep, technically gets to keep this money. These are taxpayer funds and ultimately, it is the decision of the Legislature on how the money is to be spent,” said Richard Stapler, California Resources Agency spokesman.
The scandal erupted days after reports of secret parks department vacation time buyouts of more than $271,000. Ruth Coleman, director of the state Department of Parks and Recreation, resigned Friday, and chief deputy Michael Harris was let go amid questions about the underreported funds.
Now the California Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Finance are looking into the parks department’s spending.
“You don’t go around coercing community groups and nonprofits to solve your problems while you’re sitting on reserves that size,” said Caleb Dardick, executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League, which has taken a leadership role in raising awareness and funds to keep open two Nevada County parks — Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park and South Yuba River State Park.
In February, Dardick led a contingent of local environmental leaders, conservationists, park advocates and children from Grass Valley Charter school, to hand deliver more than 10,000 petitions to Coleman.
At the time, Coleman praised the contingent, including western Nevada County officials and the children for developing a sustainable plan to keep the park open.
Dardick said those words now ring hollow.
“The state parks staff betrayed the public trust, they betrayed our community and betrayed our children,” he said. “As a sign of good faith, the parks department should immediately restore full services to both parks.”