Park Advocacy Day: A View From the Trenches

A guest post BY MICHAEL HANRAHAN

Michael is a long-time park advocate and is a regular at CSPF’s Annual Park Advocacy.

This year marks my fourth time attending Park Advocacy Day, an annual event sponsored by the California State Parks Foundation. The all-day event brings concerned citizens and state park supporters from all over California to Sacramento. We spend much of the day walking the halls of the State Capitol building, meeting with legislators, and lobbying them to take a stand on legislation related to our state parks. It’s a great experience to become a lobbyist for a day, and to take part in grassroots political action on a very meaningful level.

My 2012 Park Advocacy Day Team: George Loyer, Kirsten Schulz, Avery Dinauer, M.J. Wickham, and myself.

My 2012 Park Advocacy Day Team: George Loyer, Kirsten Schulz, Avery Dinauer, M.J. Wickham, and myself.

The day starts out with an informal breakfast, during which time the teams of four to five people get to meet each other and look over the day’s assignments. Teams are organized by region of the state, and generally meet with legislators from their particular part of the state. There are some exceptions to this though, so flexibility is critical to getting the most out of Park Advocacy Day. My Bay Area team has usually met with Democratic legislators who are strong supporters of state parks, such as former Assemblyman Jared Huffman, Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, and Senators Mark Leno and Noreen Evans. Last year, we had the chance to meet with an aide to Assemblyman Donald Wagner, an Orange County Republican, who also expressed strong support for our state parks. This provided us with a great opportunity to see how issues related to state parks enjoy the support of people across the political spectrum.

I had the chance to meet with Senator Mark Leno at Park Advocacy Day in 2011.

I had the chance to meet with Senator Mark Leno at Park Advocacy Day in 2011.

A lot has changed since 2010, the first year I attended Park Advocacy Day. One of the big issues at the time was then-Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to link funding for state parks to approval of offshore oil drilling leases along the Santa Barbara Channel. The “oil for parks” proposal, which coincided with some of the early threats to close state parks, was ultimately shot down, mainly due to its absurdity.

By 2011, the budget cuts to state parks had reached crisis level, and much of the discussion at Park Advocacy Day was related to the impending and much dreaded park closure list, which was finally released about two months later. One of the most important pieces of legislation that year was AB 42, authored by Jared Huffman, which paved the way for nonprofit organizations to enter into Operating Agreements and Donor Agreements with DPR. We lobbied hard for this bill and were very gratified to see it passed unanimously by the Assembly, by a huge majority in the Senate, and signed by Governor Brown later that year.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman speaks to 2010 Park Advocacy Day attendees on the steps of the Capitol.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman speaks to 2010 Park Advocacy Day attendees on the steps of the Capitol.

In 2012, the fight to keep open the 70 parks on the closure list was in full swing. Park Advocacy Day was attended by many representatives of organizations associated with parks on the closure list. The sense of urgency was palpable, along with a determination to fight hard to prevent any park closures from taking place. One of my assigned meetings was with Assemblyman Jared Huffman, whose AB 42 was already being put into practice by a number of organizations. The large group meeting, which included three other teams, was more like a pep rally than a lobbying meeting.

One of the best parts of Park Advocacy Day is walking around the State Capitol building. With its neoclassical architecture featuring a central rotunda topped by an expansive dome, the building takes its inspiration from the ancient Greeks, as well as the design of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. It is a style that has come to represent the home of democracy, a place where the people have a voice in their government. The State Capitol in Sacramento has an especially strong significance to park advocates, because the building itself is one of California’s 280 state parks. Its portrait-lined hallways and intricately carved staircases serve the purpose of wilderness trails and pathways that lead us to our assigned destinations.

The State Capitol building is one of California's 280 state parks.

The State Capitol building is one of California’s 280 state parks.

For people who love and cherish our state parks, Park Advocacy Day is an important day to make our voices heard, at a time when parks throughout the state are facing threats from budget cuts, nearby development, vandalism, and neglect.  Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned landscape architect who authored the Preliminary Report that created the California state parks system in 1864, wrote about the importance of protecting the great scenic wonders of our state:

“It is the will of the nation as embodied in the act of Congress that this scenery shall never be private property, but that like certain defensive points upon our coast it shall be solely for public purposes.”

This year, Park Advocacy Day offers park supporters a chance to savor the victories of the past year with a sense of cautious optimism. State parks still face formidable obstacles, including a backlog of deferred maintenance that exceeds $1 billion. But the morning light after a long dark night seems to be emerging now, like the winter sun rising above the distant horizon. It’s a view that can be cherished from many of our state parks.

Love State Parks? Say So!

There’s no better way to show your political support for something than to sit in the office of your local representative and tell them about it.

Seems a little intimidating perhaps? On the contrary. That’s why we coordinate our annual Park Advocacy Day. We schedule appointments for you, help you develop talking points, and put you in small groups with whom you can visit your representatives. But we need people like YOU to join us to make this day successful.

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Picture yourself as a park advocate

That said, registration is now open for our 11th Annual Park Advocacy Day and we hope you will participate.

CSPF’s 11th Annual Park Advocacy Day
Sacramento, CA
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

During Park Advocacy Day, over 100 park supporters will gather together in Sacramento to spend the day meeting with policymakers and advocating in support of state parks. These meetings have a lasting impact on legislators and staff as they make decisions on legislation and budget issues.

And the day is customized to YOU. You’ll have the opportunity to speak up for YOUR state parks with your very own representatives.  What’s not to like about that?

But you have to register soon to join in, as there are limited spots and registration closes Feb. 8.

If you have questions about Park Advocacy Day, please contact us at advocacy@calparks.org or call 916-442-2119.

Send a Message to the Capitol

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We’re only a few days away from Park Advocacy Day, and we are very excited. On March 20, 200 park advocates will walk the halls of the state Capitol and lobby for state parks as part of CSPF’s 10th Annual Park Advocacy Day.

Even if you can’t join us in Sacramento in person, we still want to bring your voice with us, and we’ve come up with a cool way to do it. If you share a story or photo with us on our website about why you’re defending state parks, we will deliver it to the Capitol for you on Park Advocacy Day.

Share your photo and story.

With budget cuts and park closures looming, it is imperative that lawmakers realize what’s at stake. As part of our Defend What’s Yours campaign, we want to you to tell your elected officials why you’re defending state parks. We want to bring your voice with us on March 20, and we can do that if you take moment to share a photo and/or story about why you want to help defend our state parks.

Now, more than ever, we all need to help defend and Save Our State Parks. Please take action today. Your fellow park advocates will help deliver your message as part of Park Advocacy Day, so your legislators will hear from you.

Act quickly, the upload options will close on Tuesday, March 13.

Park Advocates: Unite!

“I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?” ~Robert Redford, Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985

More than 150 park advocates from throughout California will be traveling to Sacramento on March 20 to participate in our 10th Annual Park Advocacy Day! These advocates will walk the halls of the Capitol, meet with legislators and lobby on behalf of our state parks.

If you’d like to join us on March 20 at the Capitol, please register today!  There is no cost to participate in Park Advocacy Day, but registration and participation in an online/telephone training session is required. Registration closes on February 24.

Not sure if Park Advocacy Day is for you? Maybe you just need a little convincing! Read our FAQs, or check out a recap of last year’s event (including photos).

Over the past 10 years, over 700 park supporters have joined us for this event (many returning year after year) to lobby in support of efforts to keep California’s state parks open, safe, protected and well-maintained. The work of these park advocates has helped to educate and influence policymakers as they make important decisions about California’s state park system.

Now more than ever, we all need to help defend and Save Our State Parks. Please join us!  In the words of Captain Planet, “The Power is Yours!”

Hey Sacramento, We Mean Business

On Tuesday, we took to the streets of Sacramento to protest the closure of 70 state parks with a march and rally at the Capitol. Our rally cry? “Closing parks is bad for business.” We think we got the message across.

The rally event had three goals, and we accomplished what we set out to do.

Goal 1: Bring attention to the park closure issues.
Check: Lots of enthusiastic advocates joined us for the march and rally. They also helped deliver over 100 oversized postcards and thousands of petitions to the governor’s office.  Check out this video by Folk4Parks of the big drop, including our own Traci Verardo Torres telling Brown’s aides why this is such an important issue. They literally had to use a cart to move all of the petitions we brought in!  Side note: is that Gov. Brown walking into his office at 1:33? It’s hard to tell; he’s incognito.


Goal 2:
Kick off our new ‘Closing Parks is Bad for Business Campaign,’ which will publicize the negative impacts park closures will have on California’s fragile economy.
Double Check:
Several business leaders spoke to the rally crowd about how park closures impact their businesses, clientele and communities, including: John Severini, president/CEO of California Travel Association (CalTravel), Christina Strawbridge, owner of Christina S Fashion Destination in downtown Benicia, Christopher Grant Ward of Folk4Parks, and Kevin Murphy, general manager of Sports Leisure Vacations.

Goal 3: Get advocates to attend and testify at the joint legislative hearing of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife and the Assembly Committee for Accountability & Administrative Review.
Checkmate:
We certainly made an impression, as park advocates not only filled the hearing room, but spilled out into the hallway. If you weren’t able to be there, good news, you can watch the video on demand on the California Channel. Fair warning, it’s a three-part series (there was a lot to talk about!), so better make some popcorn for this trilogy.

Part I: Impact and Status of State Park Closures
Part II: Impact and Status of State Park Closures
Part III: Impact and Status of State Park Closures

Will closed parks be bad for your business? Let us know in the comments.

Where do CSPF petitions come from?

If you have been a member or supporter of CSPF for some time, you have no doubt had us ask you to sign a petition, send a letter to the governor, or call your legislator. If you responded by doing those things, thank you! But did you ever wonder what was going on behind the scenes of that petition? Well let’s take a closer look, shall we? As our example, we will dissect our most recent petition, the giant postcard “Closing Parks is Bad for California” petitions.

Journey to the Capitol
A Park Petition’s True Life Memoir

Once upon a time (about three months ago), the Closing Parks is Bad for California petition was born in Sacramento as the brainchild of this team:

Kate, Linsey and Traci say: “It’s time for a petition.”

The Sacramento team nurtured the petition idea until it was ready and well-equipped with a plan. It was given a name and a new look, so that when it was done it looked like this:

At this point the petition was ready to be introduced to CSPF’s partners. So the Sacramento team started reaching out to SOS partners across the state, introducing them to the petition, and sending them petition posters of their own. All of these great organizations got involved to help gather signatures for this petition:

Once all the partners were ready with posters, it was time to bring the petition out into the great big world to collect signatures. The petition fared well, and thousands of people signed the posters in state parks, at fairs and festivals, after bike rides, with their families, and even on the hoods of their cars.

The drive-thru signature

Epilogue

Today, after a long journey around CA, the petition is being packaged and shipped by partners back to the CSPF Sacramento team, who is busily collecting the many signatures and posters. We will then deliver all of the signatures to the Capitol during our Nov. 1 march and rally.

The family-friendly signature

So what’s the point of the petition? As an advocacy organization, we at CSPF believe the petition is an important way to keep the state parks issue front and center in the minds of our political leaders. Not only do we want them to know how we feel about state parks, we want them to know HOW MANY of us feel that way. A big stack of petitions at the door of Gov. Brown’s office is a physical representation of the Californians who love state parks, believe they should be priority, and who are willing to put their name on it in.

Keep an eye on our Save Our State Parks campaign for the next opportunity to put your name on a park petition.

Be heard! March and Rally to Save State Parks

I got a fever! And the only prescription ... is more park activists!

Have you been vocalizing your disapproval of park closures lately, or has your battle cry been petering out? Don’t worry, we have a cure for that, and it’s not more cowbell … it’s more people!

CSPF and our Save Our State Parks Campaign partners will be hosting a march and rally on Tuesday, November 1 in Sacramento to show our support for state parks. We will protest the closure of 70 state parks and raise awareness of the negative impacts park closures will have on California, and we want you to join us! 

On your marks, get set, march

The march will start at 8 a.m. in front of Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park in downtown Sacramento. We will walk about a half mile to

the Capitol where we will assemble for a short rally protesting park closures. After the rally we will deliver 200 oversized postcards and thousands of petitions to the governor’s office.

We chose November 1 because that is the day a joint legislative hearing is scheduled to be held at the Capitol by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and the Assembly Committee for Accountability and Administrative Review. The hearing will discuss the impacts and status of proposed state park closures. We anticipate there will be some time allocated for public comment, so we encourage all rally participants to join us in attending the hearing at 9 a.m.

The California State Capitol building in Sacra...

Finish Line

It’s going to be a productive day to make our voices heard in Sacramento. We would love for you to join us to send a message to policymakers that the people of California have not given up efforts to Save Our State Parks.

You can register online today. Need more information? Please call our Sacramento office at 916-442-2119 or email advocacy@calparks.org

CSPF Does (Park)ing Day

Sometimes when you have a message to share, a little public demonstration is exactly the right way to share it. And the more fun this demo the better, which is why we are very excited to be participating in the upcoming (Park)ing Day.

(PARK)ing Day is an annual, worldwide event where artists, activists, and citizens independently (but simultaneously) turn metered parking spots into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public parks and other spaces for people to enjoy. The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created, allocated and protected to improve the quality of urban human habitat.

Picture yourself in a (Park)ing space! Image © iomarch via flickr

We as members of the parks community have a fantastic opportunity to use this day to raise awareness about the impending closure of 70 California state parks. CSPF is planning at least one event in Sacramento, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sept. 16 on the corner of 16th and J. If you are in the area, please come by and sign our oversized park closure petition postcards and enjoy our little PARK(ing) space.

If you aren’t in Sac area, try to join an already planned (PARK)ing space in your community. There are dozens of (PARK)ing Days happening in California on September 16. You can check the (PARK)ing Day world map to locate already planned events.