Last May, California announced plans to close one quarter of their 278 parks, a devastating move that is intended to save the state a mere $22 million per year. The closure list includes thousands of acres of park land, recreation areas, wildlife reserves, and 50% of the state’s historic parks. By July 2012 Californians will be bereft of 70 magnificent natural parks. The media has done little to disclose the ongoing closures or emphasize their impact.
Not wanting to miss the chance to see these places before they were gone forever, we decided to make our way across California in a converted airport shuttle bus, shooting as many parks and people as possible. Individuals we met along the way were concerned about the closing of their local parks, but no one had a collective firsthand experience of the overall picture. As we connected dots on a map, a pattern emerged. No one knew exactly what the conditions of closure would be, nor could they see how the state would ultimately benefit.
The First 70 is a short film about Californians banding together to enact change and develop solutions in the face of a glaring bureaucratic oversight. Volunteers have been forced to lend even more of their time and effort to support the already grossly underfunded state park system. Independent organizations and nonprofits have become obligated to step up to the challenge of keeping parks open, supporting them financially while working within the state’s guidelines.