Budget cuts hit state's parks

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By GENEVIEVE

BOOKWALTER

In his continuing effort to balance the state's $34 billion deficit, Gov. Gray Davis has proposed cutting $35 million from operating expenses for California State Parks.

That has some at the Calaveras District which includes Columbia State Historic Park, Calaveras Big Trees State Park and Indian Grinding Rock State Park eight miles east of Jackson worried.

The governor offset about $20 million of the money he has proposed cutting by raising park-entrance fees earlier this year. But park officials still must find ways to trim $15 million from next year's budget.

Park officials have received orders not to take anything away from visitors' experiences meaning almost all field workers will stay put.

However, office jobs will undergo a dramatic makeover.

"The only thing I dread is trying to figure out where I will be when it's all said and done," said Craig Mattson, chief ranger for the Calaveras District in Columbia.

"I'm in middle management, and right now I'm on the chopping block for the state."

The proposed supervisory shuffle would drop the number of park districts from 23 to 18, and would hook the Calaveras District up with San Joaquin and Four Rivers districts to create one large Valley District.

That region would cover parks stretching from Fort Tejon State Park off Highway 5, 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles, to Indian Grinding Rock State Park in Amador County.

Mattson said park staff members would have big commutes if the district grows that large.

New district headquarters could land in Columbia, but they also might end up at San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, Mattson said.

The consolidations could eliminate 90 positions statewide. Those jobs would range from office staff to chief rangers, park and district superintendents, Mattson said.

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