The Golden State’s incredible natural treasures are woven into our identity as Californians. And that is why we always react with such outrage when these treasures are threatened by things like oil spills, development and habitat destruction.
But there is another threat that doesn’t get a lot of headlines, but is no less devastating: lack of funding. Not only does this contribute to the slow deterioration of parks and open space, but it divides our populace into those that have access to nature and those that don’t. The result is that huge swaths of Californians don’t reap the many benefits of the outdoors, and don’t form the bond with nature that drives so many of us to protect the environment.
Proposition 68 on the June 5 primary ballot is a chance for California to make important investments in our natural resources. The bond measure will devote nearly $3 billion to repair and restore parks throughout the state, particularly in park-poor communities, as well as to clean up rivers and creeks. More than $1 billion will go toward clean water programs and water conservation.
In Fresno and Madera Counties, numerous communities will benefit from this added funding for parks and from the leveraging of local funding sources, such as the Fresno city parks initiative proposed for the November ballot. Proposition 68 includes important funding for parks in areas with the greatest need, including $725 million for parks in park-poor neighborhoods and $285 million to cities, counties, and local park and open space districts to make local parks safer and improve facilities. According to the Trust for Public Lands, Fresno ranks 90th out of 98 cities in its “park score,” and the Fresno parks master plan has identified major gaps in parks in the southern portions of the city. Proposition 68 funds can be used to address these inadequacies.
At a time when the federal government is backing away from common-sense policies to address the impacts of climate change, Proposition 68 helps California continue to lead by including funding for projects to ensure habitat connectivity, collaborations on climate-smart farm practices, and rivers and waterways restoration.
But really the best aspect of Proposition 68 is the fact that it is the first bond measure in the history of California that places equity at the forefront. Millions of Californians don’t have access to safe parks or clean water – things that many of us take for granted.
Proposition 68 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remind ourselves, and the world, what is truly great about California. Let’s make sure it passes on June 5th.
Robert Snow is the President of the Fresno Audobon Society and a member of the board of Audubon California. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.