The Santa Monica Mountains offer sweeping views and backwoods experiences only moments from urban sprawl. Baldwin Heights provides an accessible park within the confines of Los Angeles. Sanctuary Forest in Northern California shelters Big Red, a centuries-old redwood of gigantic girth, as well as spawning grounds for king salmon and steelhead in a tributary of the Mattole River. These parks and their wildlife, as well as many other projects, can be enhanced if Californians pass a major bond issue next June.
But first the measure must get on the ballot. Organizers of this wildlife, coastal and parkland initiative have collected more than the 375,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot--but not the 600,000 they feel are essential to ensure that they have enough valid signatures. Deadline for turning in the petitions is Nov. 15 but organizers have set the end of this month as their own goal.
Federal and state governments previously provided the bulk of the money to buy coastal land for parks or to preserve wetlands or to build trails in the mountains. No more. The proposed bond issue would provide $776 million, the bulk of which would be used to buy land but some would go for developing facilities at state parks and beaches. Local park districts would receive $130 million to use as they saw fit. Half the funds would come to Southern California.
The money would have wide impact. It would enable Los Angeles County to draw closer to its target of 1,300 acres of land within the Baldwin Hills State Recreation Area. A small regional park could also be created at Brea Heights where Los Angeles and Orange counties meet. Wetlands restoration at Bolsa Chica above Huntington Beach would benefit as would proposed expansion of the Sycamore Canyon Park in Riverside.
In the north, environmentalists themselves raised $50,000 as a down payment toward the $350,000 purchase of 160 acres on the border of Humboldt and Mendocino counties to prevent logging of a stand of Douglas fir and redwoods. This land, owned by investor Francis Carrington, along with another 454 acres, would form the core of the Sanctuary Forest if the bond issue is passed so the deal can be completed. In a unique agreement, the Eel River Sawmills, which owns the acreage still to be purchased, promised not to log the land until after the June election. Carrington agreed to hold another 80 acres sought for the park as well.
This bond-issue initiative carries a big price tag, but Californians have never shirked when it comes to protecting the land. Voters have approved every park and wildlife bond put before them in the last 25 years. This initiative is supported by the Planning and Conservation League, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, the National Audubon Society, the League of Women Voters and local groups all over the state such as the one working to preserve Sanctuary Forest.
Whether they preserve the stillness of a forest or the marshy breeding ground for birds or provide a place of respite in the city, parks benefit Californians of all walks of life. Now it's time for Californians to put their names on the line to benefit the parks.