SANTA CRUZ - Twin Lakes State Beach, a summertime draw that lures thousands of out-of-towners every year, is not going to turn into a pig sty anytime soon.
On a list of 70 parks slated for closure July 1 to save the state $22 million, access to Twin Lakes was never seriously expected to be cut off. But the potential for closed restrooms and trash buildup worried many locals.
Wednesday, a top regional California State Parks official said he intends to stretch his maintenance crews thin to provide those services, though at a lower level than current operations.
"We can't walk away from it," said Chet Bardo, superintendent of the Santa Cruz District of State Parks.
Since the closure announcement, dozens of state parks have been saved through third-party agreements, either to fund ongoing operations or provide outside caretaking services.
Two other Santa Cruz County state parks are among those rescued. On June 12, the Sempervirens Fund announced it would pay for ongoing operations at Castle Rock State Park. Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks is doing the same for the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park.
Those are among 30 signed agreements state parks officials say are in place to keep parks open. Another 15 to 25 are being negotiated, and several more could emerge in the next few days.
Wednesday, Big Sur Land Trust and Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District announced they would jointly oversee Garrapata State Park in Big Sur, while grocery chain Raley's announced it raised enough from customers to keep Sacramento's historic Governor's Mansion open as well.
While Bardo plans to extend his staff to cover upkeep at Twin Lakes, the beach is still officially on the closure list. Other area beaches remain on it as well, including Zmudowski State Beach, Moss Landing State Beach and Gray Whale Cove State Beach near Half Moon Bay.
There has been less concern about beaches because public access would be difficult to prevent. Bardo said a group recently indicated interest in keeping Gray Whale Cove open.
"As long as we have good faith negotiations going on, we're not going to see a light switch going off July 1," Bardo said, adding that it's especially true right before the popular July Fourth holiday.
The local nonprofit Save Our Shores is pitching to help keep Twin Lakes operating. The group does regular beach cleanups around the Monterey Bay, and recently bought prominent billboard space along Highway 17 to raise awareness about Twin Lakes' pending closure.
Executive Director Laura Kasa said she hopes to supplement maintenance at the beach, which includes Black's Beach and Seabright Beach. The cash-strapped group is raising funds to do that, and is working with beach neighbors to post several signs inviting the public to help keep those beaches clean.
"It's nice to see the community is coming around to protect the beaches," Kasa said.
In addition, a budget-related bill passed by the state Legislature Wednesday and sent to the governor's desk includes a proposal by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, to redirect and free up funding from other sources for parks.
Simitian said the bill could save dozens of parks, and is meant to build on the work of nonprofits already striving to keep parks open. In a statement, Simitian said parks are a natural and financial asset for the state.
"They are part of our heritage as Californians," Simitian said. "They are places that hold great meaning for all of us. While this budget proposal by no means puts an end to our effort to keep parks open, it is an encouraging start with long-term potential."
Follow Sentinel reporter Jason Hoppin on Twitter: @scnewsdude
On the Net
To donate to Save Our Shores Twin Lakes campaign, visit www.saveourshores.org/closed.