Back in May of 2011, the State of California announced their plan to close 70 of its 278 parks due to budget cuts. The closures were deemed necessary to achieve an $11 million reduction in the next fiscal year 2011/12. The State started with the first round of closures on July 1, 2011.
As the 2012-2013 State budget moves forward, the plan still remains to close the remaining parks to achieve a $22 million reduction for the fiscal year. Turlock Lake will be one of those recreational areas closed. The closure will mark the end of a 70 year lease the State has held with the Turlock Irrigation District, owners of the lake that is used for water storage.
Employees from California State Parks attended the December 6, 2011, Turlock Irrigation District (TID) Board meeting to make a public comment about the need to keep Turlock Lake open. Their proposal to support the ongoing operations and maintenance by California State Park was for TID to charge their roughly 98,000 customers a 25 cents monthly charge.
The $24,500 per month would support the maintenance of the capital improvements the state has made over the years and upkeep of ADA standards, as well as the operations that provides public safety, law enforcement, and natural and cultural resource stewardship. In return, TID customers would receive free day use of the park year round but would still need to pay any additional boat or overnight charges.
TID Director Charles Fernandes, who has met with park management in the past to discuss the future closure, questioned the difference in numbers from the last time they had met.
Previously, park management predicted a $500,000 shortfall has been reduced to the $250,000 shortfall that the proposed fee would cover. Park employees pointed out that the difference can be attributed to savings from cuts in various costs and adjusting the use fees. Even with the savings and the proposed $250,000 fee, there would still be a $95,000 shortfall.
The park currently employees 3 full-time staff positions, several seasonal positions and camp hosts. Annual park visitation is at 15,000 overnight visitors, 5,000 boat visitors, and 45,000 day use visitors. Park management has not calculated how the waived day use fees for TID customers would affect their revenue. However, an informal survey of visitors has found that they have visitors from both the TID and MID service areas as well as many from the bay area leading them to believe that increased fees would help cover the difference.
Since the item was brought before the TID Board during the public comment time on the agenda, no action could be taken at this time.
Park closure is scheduled for July 1, 2012 which gives TID and California State Parks roughly 6 months to find a solution to keep Turlock Lake open to the public.