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California Budget Deficit Threatens Free State Park Passes for Library Users

California’s library patrons face the potential loss of complimentary access to the state’s parks, a consequence of the growing budget deficit confronting the state. 

According to a Los Angeles Times report, the California State Library Parks Pass, a program offering free passes to more than 200 state parks for library card holders, may not receive funding in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Launched two years ago, the initiative aimed to democratize access to nature, benefiting primarily low-income individuals and people of color. 

Shellie Cocking, chief of collections and technical services at the San Francisco Public Library, expressed concern over the program’s uncertain future, noting its popularity among patrons, especially those from economically disadvantaged areas.

The program, a collaboration between the California State Library and California State Parks, started as a three-year pilot in April 2022. It distributed parking hangtags, allowing free day-use parking at participating parks, to public libraries across the state. The initiative was celebrated for its role in connecting communities with nature, providing families and children with enriching outdoor experiences.

Despite the program’s success and the positive impact on communities, California State Parks has not confirmed its continuation post-May budget revision. However, the department is exploring alternative partnerships to sustain the initiative where possible.

California’s budget deficit, projected by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office to reach $73 billion, complicates funding for such programs. While the library parks pass program was initially funded with a one-time allocation of $9.1 million over three years, it now stands at risk amidst financial constraints, even as other outdoor initiatives remain supported.

The California State Parks Foundation has mobilized support to preserve the program, emphasizing its minimal cost against the state’s expansive budget. An October survey highlighted the program’s significance, revealing that cost barriers had previously prevented many participants from visiting state parks. The program notably served individuals earning $60,000 or less annually, with a significant portion identifying as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color).

The foundation’s efforts underscore the program’s role in making state parks more accessible and welcoming to diverse populations. With 90% of respondents expressing intentions to visit state parks frequently, the initiative proves its value in promoting outdoor engagement among Californians.

Parking fees, often a deterrent for potential park-goers in urban areas, are addressed by the program, facilitating visits to scenic locales such as Malibu Creek State Park. The increase in available passes per library branch reflects the program’s growing importance, with San Francisco libraries distributing a substantial number of passes to their patrons.

The program’s popularity peaks during spring and summer, drawing parallels with the seasonal demand for travel books. Despite the looming end of funding, passes currently in circulation will remain valid through the rest of 2024.

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Hi, you might find this article from Modern Campground interesting: California Budget Deficit Threatens Free State Park Passes for Library Users! This is the link: https://moderncampground.com/usa/california/california-budget-deficit-threatens-free-state-park-passes-for-library-users/