State Parks Funding

San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area, Merced County

According to San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area Superintendent Greg Martin, each state park is its own city, and with "cities" comes crime.

"We are not immune to crime," he said. "We get vandalized. There's constant graffiti and constant repainting of signs."

Martin also has noticed more gang activity of late, which he finds worrisome.

On top of the budget cutbacks all parks have sustained, San Luis suffers from its location. The Central Valley generally has a hard time retaining and recruiting rangers, Martin said.

Staffing levels at the reservoir usually are set for one supervisor and five field rangers. The park currently has one supervisor and one field ranger on duty during its busiest periods.

Luckily, gang activity – ranging from tagging to brandishing weapons – is sporadic. Like other parks near bodies of water, the largest number of emergency calls at San Luis relate to boating.

San Luis includes three lakes, where conditions often are windy.

"When boaters are distressed, we respond ready to rescue," Martin said. Because of lower staffing, he added, "That does put a strain on us sometimes."

Though crime rates at San Luis fell a little last year, Martin said that might not mean less is happening.

"Less rangers means less enforcement," he said. "We do the best we can in being visible. We encourage families to come out and do our best to keep the criminal element out."

– Jamie Oppenheim