New Film Makes the Case for State Parks

Three young film makers have given proof to the notion that behind every cloud there is a silver lining.

In this case, the cloud is the decision by Governor Jerry Brown and the legislature to cut the Department of Parks and Recreation’s budget and prompt impending closure of 70 state parks.

The silver lining is how the film makers–Lauren Valentino, Jarratt Moody and Cory Brown–responded. So outraged were they by the closure plan that they set out in a converted shuttle bus, with camera equipment to boot, to visit all 70 of the parks over four months. The result is “The First 70″, a moving documentary tribute to the magnificent parks and the role they play in California’s economy and culture.

The film elegantly describes the parks funding crisis and allows the parks and people who care about parks say the rest. The scenery is breathtaking. So much so that after viewing it, one is left even more dumbfounded that the Governor insists on closing them–even though closing ultimately will cost the state’s economy more than it will save.

Sierra Club California co-sponsored a showing of the half-hour film on May 1 in Sacramento to an audience of about 500 that included a good number of Club members and one legislator,  Assembly member Jared Huffman. Huffman, who has sponsored legislation to try to help find new funds for the system, has a brief cameo in the film.

The film should be required viewing for every legislator who voted for the budget last year that began the $22 million in state parks cuts. Indeed, Governor Brown, whose twitter tweets would suggest he enjoys good books, good movies, and good food, ought to see the movie.

You can watch a brief trailer  of the film online. Learn more about the film makers, upcoming screenings and how the film was made at the film’s website.

You can also read more about the parks closures and efforts local groups have made to save the parks in a special section of Bay Nature, a San Francisco Bay Area magazine. Journalist Joan Hamilton wrote the entire section, entitled “The Parks and the People.” It has been dropped in hard-copy form at all of the offices of the state legislature. Let’s hope the lawmakers read it.

While all of the park-saving efforts detailed in the Bay Nature publication are inspiring, one thing remains clear: The governor and the legislature will need to act to permanently fix the park funding crisis. A fine first step would be to restore the budget cuts and keep all 278 state parks open.

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