Thursday, August 18, 2011

Solution to Keep Tomales Bay State Park Open - Blocked

I have a neat story about Tomales Bay S.P. (most people who've been there do). It's right next to Inverness and Point Reyes National Park, about an hour north of San Francisco on the rugged Marin County coast. My girlfriend and I had begun a tradition of going to parks on Superbowl Sundays when people were inside. So we went kayaking at Tomales Bay. And within 20 minutes of putting in what did we see, but a healthy-sized bobcat on some rocks at the water's edge, staring down into the depths. When we rowed over to get a closer look at him he was in no hurry to scramble back up the cliff either; he just looked up and glared at us with those yellow eyes as if to say, Hey, I'm fishin', and you're botherin' me. I think a place like that is worth preserving and keeping open so other people can enjoy it.

Here's Tomales Bay:

If you live in California and love the outdoors, you already know that many of our state parks are going to be closed (see here and here. These parks are one of the reasons many of us choose to live in California.

There's an unfortunate narrative in open space discussions, which constantly tries to portray public lands and private ownership as opposing forces. This is just about exactly bass ackwards, but it persists because there are vested interests on both sides of the discussion. Private landowners often (in fact, usually) benefit from adjacent open space; and public lands benefit from partnerships with private ranchers or concessionaires. Win-win.

And that's exactly what's being proposed now in Tomales Bay S.P., and what has been discussed for many others. Tomales Bay Oyster Company has approached Tomales Bay S.P. with a deal: give us a few tables in the park where our customers can eat oysters - we won't even sell them there, we're just asking for a place for customers to sit and eat them. In exchange, Tomales Bay Oyster Co. will pay for the upkeep, open and close the gate - in short, the stuff the state can't afford to do anymore. Similar solutions have been discussed for Annadel State Park in Petaluma, and I wish they were available for San Diego's own Palomar and San Pascual, which are also on the chopping block. If the deal up in Tomales Bay goes through, the park stays open for us Californians and gets maintained, a local company gets to expand its business - win-win, right?

Unfortunately, other local interests have allowed dogmatism to get in the way of keeping the parks open, and they've asked the park not to accept this deal. Doing this is at this point is the same as saying you want the parks to close.

So let's look at our options:

1) Close the park, prevent public access, and allow the infrastructure
to decay, to be re-opened - when? On what plan?

2) Keep the park open at zero cost to the state, in exchange for some tables and probably a little more traffic. And not even any product sales inside the park.

Am I the only person who can't understand why everyone isn't enthusiastically signing up for #2?

By all means, look at the additional visitors and the impact, but don't let that delay implementing this deal to keep the park open. The damage to the park system will be greater if the park closes, not to mention to us outdoorsy taxpayers who want to enjoy the parks. At least in this case, no one who even pretends to want to preserve the parks should be obstructing this solution. It's very frustrating. It's really just plain knee-jerk dogmatism that is blocking a solution immediately at hand.

(If you haven't already written your Rep and Senator, do so - links and template letter here. Both Fletcher and Davis wrote me back. And thanks to Thurston for the pointer.)

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