Editor’s Note: The state of California seems to abound in examples of fishy management of funds and operations of parks and campgrounds. The latest story comes from the City of Angels.
The Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks spent $2 million to operate two campgrounds that have been closed for more than 10 years, according to an audit released Wednesday (Aug. 29) by City Controller Wendy Greuel.
Camp Valcrest in the Angeles National Forest and Camp Radford in the San Bernardino Mountains have been closed for the last 13 and 20 years, respectively, because of a deferral of necessary repairs, the Los Angeles Times reported. But the city has paid $2 million for caretakers to live at the camps since they closed and nearly $100,000 for water to be trucked to Camp Valcrest, the audit states.
The audit also found that the department paid more than $217,000 for the purchase and installation of a mobile home at Decker Canyon Camp in the Santa Monica Mountains, but failed to obtain the proper permits. The home was never installed because the road to the camp wasn’t wide enough accommodate its delivery. It was ultimately stored for 10 years, then destroyed when a 2011 inspection revealed that it was no longer habitable. That campground itself was closed last year.
“Without a plan in place, wasting more than $2 million on campgrounds that no resident can use is unacceptable,” said Greuel in a release.
The audit, sparked by a call to the controller’s fraud hotline, comes as deep cuts to the city’s park system have forced the closure of swimming pools, shortened park hours and sparked an increasing reliance on private and institutional support. In 2002, the Wildlands Conservancy offered to pay $616,000 to help reopen Camp Valcrest, but the parks department failed to meet the group’s contingency demands and the offer was withdrawn in 2004.
More recently, a group of advocates led by developer Steve Soboroff has been lobbying for the restoration of park funding. In May, City Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge signed a pledge to protect funding for the department.
A 2007 city report estimated that it would cost nearly $10 million to perform the necessary seismic repairs to reopen Camp Radford. And Camp Valcrest needs about $466,000 in repairs and $150,000 to drill its own water well, according to the audit.