Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

State announces closure of Mono Lake state park

Save Mono Lake's State Park

This post was written by Morgan, 2011 Project Specialist.

The Sacramento Bee reported this afternoon that Mono Lake’s state park is proposed to be closed along with 25% of the California State Park system. It makes no sense, economic or otherwise, to close the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve and action by Mono Lake friends will be critical to reversing this plan. More details will be posted shortly.

“We regret closing any park,” Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, said in a statement. “But with the proposed budget reductions over the next two years, we can no longer afford to operate all parks within the system.”

This shocking news comes after months of waiting to see how Governor Brown’s  plan for $22 million in cuts to state parks over the next two years would affect the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve. Bodie State Historic Park is not on the closure list.

In anticipation of the tough decisions that would be made, earlier this year the Committee analyzed the 11 factors the California legislature developed for  determining which parks should be closed. Not one of the factors could be used to justify closing the Reserve. We sent  the analysis to Ruth Coleman and Governor Brown, but it appears the strong voice of the public will be needed to weigh in on Mono Lake’s behalf.

Here are the top five reasons not to close the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve:

1. No savings left to find

Closing the Reserve will not save California the money it so desperately needs because there are no cuts left to make.

Of the two park staff assigned to the Reserve, the seasonal interpretive specialist is funded entirely by the Bodie Foundation. The law enforcement ranger was scheduled to cover staffing shortages at nearby Bodie State Historic Park (not on the closure list) more than 90% of the last year. So closing the Reserve would not realize any savings from staff cuts.  On the other hand, closure of the Reserve would eliminate state income from concessionaires and special use permit fees.

The Reserve is also an economic engine for the local tourism-based economy and state parks in general are a financial windfall for the state of California, generating over $2 in tourist-driven tax revenue for every dollar spent to keep them open.

2. Significant status statewide and beyond

The Reserve is one of 29 top parks out of 278 in California recognized for its exceptional natural resources. The California legislature created the Reserve in 1981 to protect and provide for public access to Mono Lake’s captivating tufa spires and abundant birds and wildlife.

3. Popular with visitors

Each year over 250,000 people visit the Reserve from around the world. Tourists enjoy hiking, bird-watching, picnicking, photography, boating, swimming, cross-country skiing, solitude, and many other forms of recreation. Closing the Reserve would damage the local economy and deprive hundreds of thousands of visitors who have traveled great distances of their chance to enjoy Mono Lake.

4. Physical closure not feasible

How would closure work on the ground? The Reserve covers over 70 square miles of Mono Lake and the surrounding shoreline, making any method of physical closure in the form of a fence or barrier prohibitively expensive. Closure of popular Reserve access points at Old Marina or County Park would expose the surrounding sensitive shoreline areas to damage from trespassing and could cause a public safety hazard if visitors attempt to access Mono Lake by parking and crossing Highway 395 in unsafe areas.

5. California is responsible for Mono Lake

Lastly, the Reserve is wholly composed of sovereign California state lands and neither the Department of Parks and Recreation nor any other agency has the authority to abandon the state’s constitutional responsibilities at Mono Lake.

It makes no sense, economic or otherwise, to close the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve and we’re determined to do all we can to prevent closure from happening. But we’re going to need your help, so stay tuned for ways you can stand up for Mono Lake and the seventy other state parks on the closure list.