Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Panel recommends overhaul of California state parks

A fallen, hollowed-out sequoia at Calaveras Big Trees State Park creates a blowfish-like pattern on the trail to the ancient Agassiz tree.
A fallen, hollowed-out sequoia at Calaveras Big Trees State Park creates a blowfish-like pattern on the trail to the ancient Agassiz tree. The Sacramento Bee file

The California state parks system was rocked by scandal in 2012 after an investigation uncovered more than $50 million hidden away by the department in special funds, even as it moved to close 70 parks across the state because of budget cuts.

Prompted by the revelation, the Legislature created an independent panel to review park operations. The Parks Forward Commission released its report last week, recommending that the outdated and underfunded Department of Parks and Recreation transform its organizational structure, create a nonprofit to raise money for new projects, and increase access for visitors from low-income areas of the state.

The commission will meet at 9:30 a.m. at the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento to vote on its plan, as well as provide a demonstration of a new website it created to boost interest in the state parks.

VIDEO: While progress has been made, transfer between California’s public higher education systems is still not working the way it’s supposed to, Dan Walters says.

BEYOND A REASONABLE DROUGHT: California residents are doing their part to deal with the state’s historic drought, having recently met the 20 percent reduction in water use that Gov. Jerry Brown urged last year. What’s next, now that the drought has entered a fourth year? Brown and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will discuss federal and state drought response, 10 a.m. in Room 1190 of the Capitol

UNDER CONTROL: The University of California Student Association and state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, will rally in support of a longshot constitutional amendment to strip UC of its autonomy from the state – introduced by Lara in the wake of a proposed tuition hike – noon at UCLA’s Bruin Plaza.

ENROLLING STONES: As the second open enrollment period for Covered California comes to a close, executive director Peter Lee and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins are encouraging the public to sign up for the state’s health care exchange before the Feb. 15 deadline, 10 a.m. at the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Hillcrest campus.

MAGGIE AND THE GIPPER: Former California Republican Party chair and recent lieutenant governor candidate Ron Nehring is in London tonight to discuss the political future of California and Europe with the Margaret Thatcher Centre as part of its inaugural Ronald Reagan Lecture, celebrating what would have been the late president’s 104th birthday.

FRACK-TIVISTS ASSEMBLE: They’ve come to the steps of the Capitol. Now anti-fracking activists, who have been aggressively pushing for a ban on the controversial oil extraction process in California, will try to catch Brown’s attention in his home city of Oakland. A coalition of dozens of environmental, labor and social justice groups are hosting a march for “real climate leadership,” starting Saturday at noon at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, calling on the governor to stop fracking because of concerns over pollution and health risks.

READ MORE: Hidden California state parks funds spark outrage