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Diverse Allies File Administrative Complaint with Feds to Keep California State Parks Open for All

UPDATE. According to US EPA Environmental Justice head Lisa García:

We were going around the country with some of the cabinet members doing listening sessions on America’s Great Outdoors. And how we have to connect certain communities to parks, how we have to improve our open space in, certainly in cities, and connect kids in rural areas to large national parks. So someone told me that I had to meet a great city parks advocate, Robert García, who was working on national parks issues. And we worked together on this national park issue in California. And I have to say it was really the work of The City Project that got it all solved, it wasn’t the federal government.

Lisa García
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Associate Assistant Administrator for Environmental Justice 2010-14
Speaking at the US EPA New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Denver, CO, 2014
Click here for the video of Lisa García’s remarks.

Members of a diverse and growing alliance have submitted an administrative complaint with the federal government to prevent proposed budget cuts and repeated threats to close up to 100 or more California state parks. The City Project submitted the complaint to United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, United States Attorney General Eric Holder and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This complaint was submitted against California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; the State of California; the California State legislature; the California Resources Agency; the California Department of Parks and Recreation (the Department), and their agents, officers, and representatives.

The State of California proposes to cut from $8 million to $14.2 million and up to $70 million this year from the Department’s budget, which represents up to 87% of its budget this year. The State has also threatened to cut another $73 million from the Department’s budget next year. Closing units of the park system would cost far more than any proposed savings and would be arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, and illegal under the following laws, among others, as discussed below:

  • the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Federal Lands to Parks Program;
  • laws requiring that beaches remain public for all, including the public trust doctrine, the California Constitution, the California Coastal Act, and other California statutory law;
  • federal and state civil rights laws prohibiting intentional discrimination and unjustified discriminatory impacts based on race, color or nation origin by recipients of federal and/or state funds, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its regulations, and California Government Code 11135 and its regulations;
  • Federal and state laws protecting the interests of Native Americans in Sacred Sites on State Park grounds, and requiring respectful government to government consultations with Native Americans, which have not in fact occurred;
  • Federal and state environmental laws requiring full environmental review before any discretionary acts to close State Parks;
  • California Code of Civil Procedure 526a, prohibiting any illegal expenditure of, waste of, or injury to public property.

“If there is a place on earth for us to find peace and tranquility, it is the open space available at State Parks and Native Sacred Sites like Panhe. It is a travesty for the majority of hard working people to lose these precious places in the face of great economic pressure on family needs, but every soul needs a quiet place away from our troubled world,” according to Robert Bracamontes.

The complaint demands that the State of California and its agents, representatives, and officers keep the California State Parks and Recreation system open for all, and cease and desist threats to cut the budget of the Department and to close units of the State Park system. The alternative is for the State to face the loss of federal funds and litigation to achieve access to justice through the courts.

The complaint was submitted by Raul Macias, Anahuak Youth Sports Association; Robert Bracamontes, Acjachemen Nation, Juaneño Tribe; Harold Goldstein, California Center for Public Health Advocacy; Fran Gibson, Coastwalk California; Martin Martinez, California Pan Ethnic Health Network; Robert García, The City Project; and Mark Williams, Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles.

Click here to download the administrative complaint to keep state parks open for all.