Dozens of state parks may close

FRESNO, Calif.

The State Parks Department says the closures are necessary to achieve a $33 million budget reduction over the next two years.

George Hatfield State Park and McConnell State Recreation area in Merced County, are on the closure list, along with the California Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa.

The state operates 278 parks across California.

Friday, state officials announced 70 will be closed by July of 2012.

For the first time in his young life, 4-year-old Johnny of Atwater is learning how to fish. "We didn't catch anything, but he liked it, just fishing out there."

His mom brought him to Merced County's McConnell State Park Saturday with the hopes of returning again. But, this park is among the 70 state-wide expected to close by July of 2012.

"You know, it's a shame that the state is closing not just this park, many parks. Uh, it's the only thing we have," Maria Pulido said.

Even though the parks aren't slated to close until next year, state officials say visitors will still see a reduction in days, hours and services as early as this summer.

"They'll have some bathrooms closed, we're not cleaning them quite as often and hauling trash and that sort of thing. We ask visitors be patient this summer as we work through this process," Roy Stearns said.

The announcement comes as a surprise to Rosy Keena.

She is the head maintenance worker at McConnell State Park and says it's a popular destination for people throughout the Valley.

"11:00, we close the gates where we have too many people in the park, so we're very crowded in the summer time," Rosy Keena said.

Keena now questions where people will go instead.

Mary Miller of Merced has asked herself the same thing. She grew up going to McConnell State Park and now takes her family nearly every weekend.

"It does gonna be a tradition that we just can't do anymore," Mary Miller said.

"I'm just really gonna be sad," Angelique Rea said.

State officials say this plan will stick.

They fear more parks will close without Governor Brown's proposed tax extensions.

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