California mountain bikers are facing the September closure of State Parks as a result of the state’s budget crisis. Unless some alternatives are found, the State Park Service will close upwards of 70 parks across the state, including Santa Rosa’s mountain bike haven at Annadel.
“It would be a big blow to cyclists,” Carlos Perez, owner of Bike Monkey told BikeRadar. Instead of just taking advantage of the parks whilst they are still open, Perez and Bike Monkey have launched a fundraising campaign to keep Annadel State Park open.
The effort begins with the Annadel cross-country race on 25 June; here Bike Monkey, along with California State and Sonoma County Regional parks, will kick start fundraising efforts. Together they are exploring a new model of park management in Sonoma County. “We’re leading the charge for state and regional parks, specifically state parks,” says Perez. “An effort is being made for a public forum to raise funds to keep the state park open.”
Closing the parks would save an estimated $22 million in the California state budget, but ironically money will still spent to provide law enforcement to patrol the parks to ensure that the public does not trespass.
In Sonoma County, the loss of Annadel would be devastating to riders. “Riders’ options would be cut by a third,” says Perez, “The park accounts for 90-percent of all mountain bike activity in the county.”
Perez encourages riders to consider being active to save the parks and do their part. “Absolutely, there should an obligation, but not just from riders but from the population of users of the parks.” He says that riders do have a bigger stake and thus must take a bigger share of the burden, and this includes the cycling industry, too.
“Riders are seen as having an impact, and we must stand up and do our part, which includes trail maintenance and fundraising,” he said. Perez also says the companies that make money from riders should do their part as well, and has seen the bicycling industry really come together in the past. “The industry thrives on these efforts to keep spaces open, and make it so we have places to ride.”
Bike Monkey is already fundraising in the local cycling community with the hope to prevent the closure of Annadel and other local state parks. Additionally, staff from both state and regional parks are developing a co-management approach, where Regional Parks will attempt to address the short-term administration of lands that State Parks cannot.
This problem won’t likely be limited to California either, as other states continue to face budget shortfalls. “I can only speak to California right now, but these types of service that government doesn’t deem as important are going to be the first to go,” he said.
Perez hopes that local efforts will save the parks. “It is based on the economy, and in these times communities need to manage and maintain the parks if the state can’t,” said Perez. “Sweat equity might be required to keep it open, and then people can appreciate what they did locally while maintaining a place to ride.”