Mothballing a Site Can Be Worse than Staying Open

The California State Parks system has been teetering on the edge of closure for the past few years due to the economic paralysis that has gripped the state’s government.  The situation is so bad that the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the entire system–nearly 300 sites–to their 11 Most Endangered List in 2008.  The downward spiral continues and the state has now begun mothballing sites with disastrous results.  The recent victim is Mitchell Caverns, which was recently vandalized when the site was closed and abandoned.  According to the Los Angeles Times:

Intruders cut fences, kicked doors off of hinges and shattered windows and display cases. They stole metal signs and survival gear, including hand-held radios, flashlights and binoculars. They also stole diesel-powered generators and ripped out thousands of feet of electrical wire used to illuminate the only natural limestone caverns in the state park system, San Bernardino County sheriff’s investigators said.

This may not bode well for the state’s plan to shut 70 more sites in July–that’s 25 percent of the parks.  Perhaps it would be better to lease or sell these sites with easements rather than see them vandalized and destroyed.  For the more on this story, see “Shuttered California State Parks may be Vulnerable to Vandalism” by Louis Sahagun in the Los Angeles Times, February 25, 2012.