The closure of 70 state parks will be one of the greatest blunders of California's budget crisis: An important component of our freedom will have been lost. It is a tragedy in the making. Only we the people can avert the final scene.
The lack of will, or perhaps ability, on the part of a succession of legislators and administrations to put in place budget reforms is the cause of this looming tragedy.
This must stop. It is time for a paradigm shift in how we manage our parks, recreation areas and cultural resources. Alternatives must be explored, which should include management of some parks by volunteer organizations and public/private partnerships with responsible concessionaires. There may be other valid ideas. But a guaranteed amount of public funding must be part of any solution.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature should appoint a commission to come up with a plan to secure the future of California State Parks.
One hundred years ago it was visionary people and groups like the Save the Redwoods League and the Sempervirens Fund that worked to preserve our natural and cultural resources. It is time that these groups, along with the California State Parks Foundation and the California State Parks and Recreation Commission, took control to formulate a plan to establish a secure and permanent funding source and preserve our parks for future generations.
During my tenure as director, the Legislature and administration agreed that if California State Parks reduced its budget by $10 million, while putting in place more efficient and effective management practices, then the budget cuts would cease, and the agency would be rewarded with the funds it needed to manage and maintain the parks. The savings were achieved. The successful management practices of performance measurement and budgeting that California State Parks put into place are being discussed in the Legislature this month -- 15 years after we proved them successful.
Enter the old saw, no good deed goes unpunished: Over the past 16 years, the Legislature and various administrations have continued the practice of systematically whittling away the finest system of parks anywhere in the world.
Access to natural and cultural resources that are owned by the people is a fundamental right. I assert it is a natural right, just like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Fifteen years ago, famed Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson and I were on the radio program "The Osgood Files" discussing Biophilia. It is a simple principle. Human beings evolved from the world around them and consequently have a genetic connection to that world that fosters understanding, good health, a sense of wonder and discovery, and the desire to preserve the land for future generations. The same is true for our cultural resources. California State Parks represent the essence of this principle.
I have heard it repeated by countless legislators and at least three governors that the choices they must make during economic crises are tough. They wax eloquent about how they love parks and how it hurts them to have to make these cuts -- cuts that ultimately kill. And not unlike the tragic figure Othello who uttered, " ... and I will kill thee, and love thee after," our political leaders will feign much love after the parks are gone.
Ultimately, we the people are responsible. If we do not rise up and craft a solution to save what is ours, then we are complicit in this looming tragedy.

DONALD W. MURPHY was director of California State Parks from 1992 to 1999 and deputy director of the National Park Service from 2001 to 2007. He wrote this for this newspaper.