California to Move Its 'Parks Forward'
California's parks are in need of major changes. As Chris Megerian reports in The Los Angeles Times, "[The] parks department has been under close scrutiny since 2012, when it was revealed that agency officials had stockpiled millions of dollars at a time when the state was closing parks because of budget cuts. The department’s director was ousted and a new one appointed with a mandate to refurbish the parks system’s image and operations."
The latest efforts towards major changes include a review of the California Department of Parks and Recreation by an independent commission. The commission is currently drafting the "Parks Forward" report, which identifies specific problems as summarized by Megerian: "The leadership needs to be more diverse and include more people who are not public safety officers…there aren’t enough parks in California’s growing urban areas, where there are increasing numbers of young Latinos…the department should experiment with new types of public spaces that include amenities like soccer fields and picnic areas, as well as improve transportation to parks…the department needs a permanent source of funding to safeguard the state’s natural resources and pay for more than $1 billion in overdue maintenance."
S.F.Gate's Jon Christensen describes potential solutions as included in the report: "Create a new, more nimble, nonprofit parks support organization to work with the state parks agency, other local and regional parks agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and community groups to do what needs to be done…The commission's recommendations for internal reforms include upgrading the department's information and technology infrastructure; budgeting, planning and accounting systems; and fee collections."
The commission will be holding public meetings throughout the summer with a final "Parks Forward" report to be presented to the department in the fall.