Tight Budgets Pinch State Park Funds

Lindsay Bourkoff and her twins are regulars at this state park in Los Angeles.

"This is the last place where I have to take my children on a Sunday, or during the week, and have them explore," Bourkoff said.

But in this budget crisis there is a limit on how much fresh air and open space California can afford. A $26 billion shortfall forced the state to make drastic cuts - which could include closing 100 parks - more than a third of the state's 279 parks, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.

"It's an awful feeling, but we have no choice," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in June.

Some 78 million Californians and tourists from around the world go to California's state parks each year. In one park enormous trees grow. Another provides visitors a rare close-up view of elephant seals. Another park gives polo players a place to compete.

"These are very significant places and closure is going to damage them no matter how long or short it is," said Elizabeth Goldstein, with the California State Parks Foundation.

Hundreds of concerned park visitors sent in photos of their favorite parks as part of a campaign to save them from closure, from busy beaches to remote historic sites.

And in Will Rogers State Park, a Hollywood style protest, picnickers gathered in costumes from another era. Their message: parks are a link between the past and the future - and that should be preserved.

"All the work people have done over the decades saving, preserving and developing these parks for future generations and it's just going to get thrown away because it's inconvenient for the current budget situation," said Walter Nelson, a park advocate.

Advocates say parks are needed most right now when so many are on a tight budget.

"More people are going camping in the state parks than ever before," Goldstein said. "People are flocking to the state parks because it is affordable, accessible recreation."

"To come to a place like this park and have my kids run around for two hours, find sticks, pick up rocks, scratch sap off trees - it's priceless," Bourkoff said.

But in this economy, Californians are realizing even their invaluable treasures come with a price.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.