Consider it a fiscal olive branch being extended by the state following the discovery of hidden millions for parks last summer: Henry W. Coe State Park boosters are getting matching operating funds worth $279,000 per a law passed in September.
That law requires that $10 million of $54 million in park funds that went unreported to the state Department of Finance be used to match money collected via donations that were received when 70 parks were thought to be on the chopping block to save $22 million.
The discovery made groups that had collected money feel betrayed -- many began rumbling that they wanted a refund, and it made it nigh impossible for park boosters to count on any continued donations.
"All of a sudden our donors and funders and pledges that we had dried up," said Ann Briggs of the Coe Park Preservation Fund, which had produced the $279,000 aimed at saving the 87,000-acre park east of Morgan Hill that is the second-largest in the state system.
By doubling the war chest, Coe can stay staffed through June 30, 2014, and an additional agreement says the state will keep it open for the two following years, although with levels of service dependent on available funding.
State Parks and Recreation Director Anthony Jackson, a former U.S. Marine major general who was appointed to his current post by the governor last month, said the agreement signed Wednesday is just the start.
"I feel that one of the first things I got to do for the people of California is to restore their faith and trust in state parks," Jackson said. "It was hurtful to a lot of the people in associations and foundations that benefit parks, and it was hurtful to 99 percent of the people who work in state parks, and a damaging blow to everybody's morale who loves the state parks."
Aaron Robertson, deputy parks director, said the money demonstrates to funding partners that the state "has skin in the game."
He said a number of audits are currently under way to find out how the $54 million went missing in the first place.
"We see this certainly as a very unfortunate circumstance that happened, but we also see it as a turning point to restore people's trust," he said.
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/mercurynews.com.