I had lived in the Bay Area for 22 years before I got around to visiting Henry W. Coe State Park, southeast of San Jose. Eventually my curiosity about that very large block of green on the map (it’s the largest state park in Northern California) moved me to brave South Bay traffic and head down there on a weekday in May. My curiosity was rewarded, as I saw a greater variety of wildflowers and birds than I had ever seen in a single day of hiking. It was one of my most memorable days in nature, ever.
So when someone asks me about great places for spring wildflower hikes in the Bay Area, I start with Henry Coe. But I may have to alter my response, because Coe is one of 48 state parks (nine in the Bay Area) slated for closure under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to address the state’s $16 billion budget deficit. Another of the parks facing the governor’s axe is Fremont Peak, the subject of this issue’s “On the Trail” (page 12). Go visit while you still can!
It won’t come as a big surprise that we at Bay Nature think closing state parks to balance the budget is a lousy idea. We certainly don’t want to have to argue for one park over another. All the state parks are valuable, because of the natural and cultural resources they preserve, and because the high-quality, low-cost recreational, educational, and inspirational experiences they provide are accessible to all people.
Speaking purely for myself, I’m happy to kick in the extra 25 cents per year in taxes that would be required from each Californian to match the estimated $8.9 million savings from closing those parks. But unfortunately, in California it takes a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to pass a tax increase, an almost impossible feat.
There is a lamentable stinginess of spirit that afflicts so much of our political culture when it comes to paying for social goods that benefit all citizens. This stands in stark contrast to the legacy of the New Deal we covered in our January issue. And to the legacy of one noteworthy citizen and Republican congressman of the early 20th century, William Kent. As you’ll read in this issue’s story on the 100th anniversary of Muir Woods National Monument, Kent’s donation of 298 acres containing the last remaining old-growth redwood stands in Marin to the federal government set the stage and the standard for the remarkable century of conservation philanthropy that followed, one that also included Sada Coe’s donation of her ranch to the state in 1953.
Now we can honor William Kent’s and Sada Coe’s generosity by making our voices heard on the state park closures. Go to Save Our State Parks for updates and action suggestions.
Speaking of websites, we’re getting set to launch an exciting new website ourselves. It will be an online gateway to nature in the Bay Area, providing tools for you to explore and protect nature nearby. It features a searchable map, a regional events calendar, listings for more than 2,000 local parks, updated seasonal highlights, and improved access to hundreds of our articles, all linked to relevant activities and organizations. Please come visit us at www.baynature.org after June 1.
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Veteran environmental activist, writer, editor, publisher, educator, and coastal wetlands scientist Phyllis Faber has made countless contributions to the Bay Area environmental movement.