In May 2011, the State of California announced a plan to close up to 70 of its 278 parks within the year, due to budget cuts. By closing one quarter of the State’s parks, a mere $22 million would be saved over two years. Three young filmmakers set out to capture the majesty of these parks, before they were lost to future generations.
While working in the design industry Jarratt Moody and his girlfriend Lauren Valentino were living in San Francisco and exploring the wilderness areas throughout California on the weekends. When they heard the announcement of the parks’ closure, which was mostly underreported, they knew they had to do something.
“But what was I going to do about it? Pay a day use fee? Sign a petition?” said Moody. “Everyone I talked to was similarly frustrated. We were all losing something we loved and there was no way to stop it. Lauren had the idea of setting out to visit all the parks and creating a documentary about the closures. It’s unfortunate that one of the most powerful tools we have to expose shortsighted political decisions is documentary filmmaking, but it was the only option we had.”
They posted their project to the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, exceeding their goal in six weeks from 1104 backers. They were joined by their longtime friend Cory Brown, who had converted an old airport shuttle bus into a veggie oil powered recreational vehicle, and they set out to investigate the impact that these closures would have on the local economies and the people who relied on them.
The First 70 is a 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. Due to these citizen-led efforts, the 70 parks were not closed on the July 2012 deadline, however their future is still hazy.