Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Jesse Gorsuch had the morning off and miles of trails to explore on his mountain bike. Strapping on his helmet, he launched into Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa last week ready for some heart-racing fun.
That fun cost him nothing but sweat. The Sebastopol floor installer avoided paying a day-use fee of $7 by parking on Channel Drive outside the gated entrance to the park’s paid lot.
“I’m just a deadbeat,” he said.
He’s not the only one.
California’s Department of Parks and Recreation estimated that 43 million people paid nothing to enjoy one of the state’s 280 parks in 2011-12, the most recent year for which data is available. That equaled 64 percent of all park visitors that year.
Who pays and who doesn’t for access to the natural and historical wonders protected inside the state’s parks are key considerations amid calls to overhaul the 150-year-old parks system, an effort spawned by a major financial scandal involving the Parks Department in 2012 and perennial budget problems that threatened the closure of dozens of destinations.