Lawless future indeed


Our recent story "Lawless future" described the Road Warrior-esque state of some of California's state parks. The state's budget problems meant that parks lost nearly $40 million this year. Short on staffing and law enforcement, many parks saw a surge in vandalism and illegal activity; nonetheless, the state is planning to shut down several parks altogether to save money and further reduce services at others. 


Now, the Department of Parks and Recreation has issued a legal memorandum warning  of the liabilities that can be expected from essentially abandoning these parks. As summarized by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

    Unanticipated problems include both short and long-term liabilities, increased risk of wildfires, marijuana plantations on unmonitored parklands and “increased danger to the public” due to absence of lifeguards and other protective services.  ...

In sobering terms, the memo outlines an array of legal and fiscal thickets from park closings, including:

*  Legal liabilities from “dangerous conditions” in unstaffed parks, deteriorating facilities and risks to adjoining property from occurrences such as wildfires.  The memo concludes “From a liability standpoint, closing the parks would probably not benefit State Parks and could in fact increase its liability for dangerous condition of public property;”
    * Contractual obligations from grants, land donations, concessionaire contracts and earmarked federal and state funds may leave the parks legally obligated to keep operating despite a claim of funding shortfalls; and
    * Public safety dangers and legal claims from nuisance uses and trespass.  The memo predicts that state losses from theft, encroachments and other unauthorized uses “will only increase if State Parks cannot take immediate and effective action….”

The state says it will release the list of parks to be closed later this week. But if its own analysis is correct, the closures may not end up saving much money at all.



Who Pays These People?
Sep 22, 2009 02:35 PM
Could the internal contradictions in the PEER press release be more obvious? Let's see:

We're "protecting the resource" by calling it a "park," fencing it off and restricting access. Then we'll develop part of it and put in infrastructure and amenities.

In turn we'll tax people and charge them absurd fees and then use that money to support a cadre of bureaucrats and glorified rentacops to enforce the access restrictions and keep up the amenities. These bureaucrats and rentacops will act like they have some sort of life tenure and are god's gift to the land, when in reality, the problem is just that the have no economic value and no job if the park ceases to function.

The laws of reality will be suspended, and those paying the taxes will assume legal responsibility for everything that happens within the "park," whether or not individuals are themselves at fault and whether or not the bureaucrats and rentacops are successful in their primary mission of enforcing the land's "boundaries" and status as a "park".

HINT: You (PEER people) are not "protecting the resource". Your "park" is not about "protecting the resource". It is about the same dominating, exclusive, extractive interests as the private property system, under the cheery banner of industrialized recreation.

The land would be better left as it was, for people to access on their own terms at their own risk (sovereign immunity). Could there be despoilation? Sure. Without a gun pointed outward any boundary line may eventually cease to be a boundary line. But who's saying that system really works anyhow? At least that way, we would be kidding ourselves by pretending an ever-growing bureaucracy (which wreaks its own developmental destruction on natural areas and makes cadres of dolts dependent on it for jobs) has anything to do with "protecting" it from the inherent, systemic "risks" of this system of living and property that the PEER letter hyperventilates about.