15 highlights from the 15th annual Park Advocacy Day

Last month, we celebrated our 15th annual Park Advocacy Day in Sacramento. In honor of both the anniversary and all the advocates who joined us to support state parks, here are 15 highlights from the 15th annual Park Advocacy Day:

#1 Park advocates

119 park advocates from throughout California, representing nearly 50 organizations. We couldn’t start our highlight list in any other way, because park advocates are what Park Advocacy Day is all about.

For a handful of those 119 advocates, it was their 15th Park Advocacy Day…

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Including advocates Randy Widera, Barbara Lincoln and Jarrell Jackman, who’ve attended every single Park Advocacy Day.

…And for some it was their first…

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Like Nicolette, seated at the front left of this photo with her team, who’s been volunteering in state parks since she was in the 7th grade.

…Including our new executive director, Rachel Norton.

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As Rachel welcomed everyone, she shared why she wanted to join this group of park advocates as CSPF’s executive director: “The commitment to creating equitable park access, and to supporting and partnering with like-minded organizations committed to park access – that’s what drew me most to join CSPF right now. CSPF has always been working to make parks open for all Californians, to make park experiences available to all Californians, and to secure support for parks from all Californians.”

(Learn more)

Some advocates got a head start on their legislative meetings.

Advocates from California Outdoor Engagement Coalition had an impromptu legislative meeting on the train ride to Sacramento.

Senator pro Tempore Kevin de León set the tone for how important advocacy is.

“My name is Kevin de León, and I am the leader of a legislative body that upholds the Constitution of the United States,” he introduced himself. “Everyone is looking toward California. That’s no hyperbole. That’s no exaggeration. Many global leaders are looking to what happens in California. We can demonstrate to the world what our values are. That’s the strength of our state – the diversity, the inclusivity.”

We heard so many personal stories about parks, from Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher…

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“I’m really excited to be here,” she started. “My passion for our state parks, I think of it as outside my job. Anyone who follows me on social media will see that this is regular part of our lives. Where else can you as a mom cook over a stove and watch your kids learn to paddle out? It is part of my family now and it was park of my family growing up.”

…and Director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation Lisa Mangat…

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“Everyone could stand up and share a personal story about why you’re here,” said Mangat. And she shared a bit of her own: “Way before I became parks director, [my father] kind of laid this foundation, and used the great outdoors to teach his daughters the kind of lessons you can only learn through the great outdoors.”

…and Myrian Solis Coronel, vice chair of the California State Park and Recreation Commission.

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Coronel’s multi-media presentation showed how parks intersect with different aspects of her life, and shared the stories of other women in REI’s “Force of Nature” video.

Advocates kept history alive with period dress!

While advocacy and legislation was focused on the future of California state parks, some advocates dressed in period clothing, reminding us our parks preserve our state’s history as well.

We petitioned the governor…

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We delivered more than 8,000 petitions from members and park advocates who couldn’t join us to Governor Jerry Brown, thanking him for his past leadership on recent funding for parks and asking him to support legislation that would allow California voters to support a new park bond.

…and met with 110 legislative offices!

We crammed 110 legislative meetings into one afternoon to discuss important state park issues including improving access to park facilities and amenities, maintaining access and protections for park lands and monuments, and increasing affordable access to California’s coast and all state parks. Some advocates, like Fadi, got an extra behind-the-scenes feel for the legislative process.

Youth advocates shared their experiences.

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Leaders from Outdoor Outreach and Sonoma Ecology Center Enviroleaders talked about how important it is for youth to have access to parks. Check out this video of Nate Howard of Movement BE, an Outdoor Outreach partner, during the briefing:

We honored Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia

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Assemblymember Garcia was recognized for his work promoting and advocating for California’s state parks. “Our state parks serve as one of the cornerstones of our cultural and historical communities,” he said. “[They] protect and preserve an unparalleled collection of culturally and environmentally sensitive features and ancient habitats.”

(Learn more)

And lastly, if a picture is worth a thousand words, this selfie is at least worth it’s own item on this list

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Assemblymember Ash Kalra takes a selfie with (L to R) Assemblymember Kansen Chu, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, and CSPF Executive Director Rachel Norton

Want to learn more about the 15th annual Park Advocacy Day? Read the recap on our website, or check out our Storify for social media posts from the day.

State Budget Tackles Deferred Maintenance in State Parks

Over the summer, Governor Brown signed the 2016-17 Fiscal Year State Budget, which includes funding for several projects and initiatives near and dear to CSPF’s heart. This is the final article in a three-part series taking an in-depth look at these projects to tell the story of why advocacy for state parks matters. #advocacymatters #yourvoiceforparks

The previous articles of this series dug into how the state budget will bring solar energy to Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park and discussed the new funding enabling the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to create a two-year Community Liaison Pilot Project at two of the largest urban state parks in California.

This final installment dives into an issue of great concern to CSPF, our members, and the entire state parks community: deferred maintenance. The 2016-17 state budget includes $60 million of funding to address the existing backlog of deferred maintenance projects, as part of a larger $688 million budget allocation to address the state’s most critical infrastructure projects.

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(c) Phillip Oakley Otto

This funding will allow DPR to make critical repairs necessary to preserve visitor safety and enjoyment and protect our natural and cultural resources. It important to note, however, that this $60 million addresses just 5 percent of the current needs identified by DPR, which estimates the deferred maintenance backlog to be over $1.2 billion.

California’s 280 state parks contains more than 1.6 million acres of land and house over 3,100 historic buildings, as well as more than 14,000 individual and group campsites.  They are visited by nearly 75 million visitors annually!

Decades of decreases in funding for state parks, and the lack of predictable funding have resulted in regular maintenance needs not being met. DPR estimates its annual shortfall in ongoing maintenance is approximately $120 million.

The fact that this funding was included as part of the Governor’s General Fund Deferred Maintenance Plan shows a commitment toward a necessary program to address the ongoing needs of the state parks system.

CSPF continues to advocate for funding to address the critical needs of the state park system, and urges California to follow the lead of other states, such as New York, that have created key initiatives to address capital funding needs in their park systems. We believe that California should also develop a clear, targeted, and intentional strategy to address capital needs in state parks.

Learn More

Legislative Analyst’s Office, Challenges in Reviewing Recently Released $400 Million Deferred Maintenance Project List

Parks Forward, Baseline Financial Investment

What Is Deferred Maintenance?

Deferred maintenance is the practice of postponing maintenance activities (such as repairing a leaky roof or damaged trail) in order to save costs, meet budget funding levels, or realign available budget monies.

CA State Budget Funds New Outreach and Engagement Project at Urban State Parks

Over the summer, Governor Brown signed the 2016-17 Fiscal Year State Budget, which includes funding for several initiatives near and dear to CSPF’s heart. This is part two of a three-part series taking an in-depth look at these projects to tell the story of why advocacy for state parks matters. #advocacymatters #yourvoiceforparks

Last month we “dug” into how special funds allocated in the new budget will bring solar energy to Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park after a four-year effort.

This month we want to tell you about another budget victory that is enabling the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to develop and implement a two-year Community Liaison Pilot Project at two of the largest urban state parks in California, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area in San Francisco and Los Angeles State Historic Park.

We believe that the future of California’s state park system depends on engaging more Californians, and developing greater awareness and support for parks among diverse communities. This program will help DPR increase engagement with established community-based organizations and nonprofit groups. Together they will be able to conduct outreach and engage local community members in the creation of culturally relevant interpretive and environmental programming at these parks. You can learn more about the program objectives and deliverables on the DPR Transformation Blog.

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New bird nesting island at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area created during Yosemite Slough Phase 1 Wetlands Restoration.

CSPF has played a critical role in the development of both Candlestick Point State Recreation Area (CPSRA) and Los Angeles State Historic Park (LASHP) and is excited about this new project and its potential to provide more meaningful park experiences to more people.

At CPSRA, CSPF led a 2003 feasibility study that showed restoration of the 34-acre Yosemite Slough area of the park would be beneficial for the entire bay and resulted in a three-phase Yosemite Slough Restoration Plan. In 2012, CSPF completed the Phase 1 wetlands restoration and environmental cleanup on the north side of Yosemite Slough. Phase 2, for which we recently completed fundraising, will create a “green” education center, trails, nature viewing and recreation areas, parking and restroom facilities, and other amenities to make the 21 acres of parklands restored during Phase 1 accessible for public use and enjoyment. In addition, CSPF is collaborating with DPR and other key partners and community groups to develop rich place-based educational programs for CPSRA. Learn more here.

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Design rendering of the new Los Angeles State Historic Park currently under construction.

The land for Los Angeles State Historic Park (LASHP) was acquired by DPR in December 2001. Since that time, CSPF has been instrumental in the creation of the park’s master plan and has supported the development of a groundbreaking interactive interpretive program for its welcome center. The park is not yet fully open to the public but is anticipated to be completed in Spring 2017.

Learn More and Plan Your Visit

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area is located in the southeast part of the city and county of San Francisco, adjacent to the site of the former Candlestick Park stadium. As California’s first urban state park, Candlestick Point is readily accessible to over 4 million local residents.

The park offers beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay, with picnic areas, fishing piers, a fitness course for seniors, and hiking and biking trails. The park also has an area popular with windsurfers.

Los Angeles State Historic Park includes 32 acres of open space directly adjacent to Chinatown. Once the park opens, visitors will have access to walking paths with views of downtown and interpretive opportunities to discover and celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of Los Angeles.

State Budget Paves Way for Solar Energy at Malakoff Diggins

After a four-year effort, CSPF and state park supporters throughout California are celebrating that the current state budget includes the necessary funding to install a cost-effective, clean solar energy system at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park.

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Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park (c) Craig VanZante

This project is critical to the future of Malakoff Diggins SHP because this remote state park does not have access to conventional electricity, and currently relies on an expensive diesel generator to power the lighting and security systems that protect an estimated 100,000 historical artifacts.  The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has stated that it spends $70,000 annually to run the generator alone. PG&E has estimated the cost to bring conventional electricity to the park at over $2 million.

By bringing solar to Malakoff Diggins, the park will not only rely on a cleaner energy source, but will significantly reduce its operating costs and allow money currently spent on running the generator to be used for other purposes.

In 2008, Malakoff Diggins was one of 48 state parks identified for closure in the first of many park closure proposals due to state budget cuts. Some state park administrators felt Malakoff Diggins didn’t produce enough revenue to offset its operating cost, a major portion of which was the cost of running the diesel generator.

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Grizzly Hill School students march to protest closure of Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Between 2008 and 2013, CSPF led statewide advocacy efforts to stop the closure of state parks – organizing rallies, petition drives, press conferences and visits with policymakers. In April of 2008, CSPF organized a march for state park supporters from Sutter’s Fort SHP to the State Capitol. Students from Grizzly Hill School joined the march, helping raise awareness of the importance of Malakoff Diggins to their community.

In 2012, CSPF provided $25,000 in critical funding to the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) to help the organization enter into a donor agreement with the State of California in order to keep the park open.

“This generous stop-gap funding from the California State Parks Foundation gives us the breathing room to work with local State Parks staff to develop a long-term solution to save the historic Malakoff Diggins,” said Caleb Dardick, Executive Director of the South Yuba River Citizens League, in 2012, after his organization received a CSPF Park Partnership Grant to help keep Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park open. “With this welcome reprieve, we will focus on long-term solutions such as getting a comprehensive solar power system installed at the park, which could save $60,000 to $80,000 per year in diesel fuel costs for generators and benefit the environment as well.”

Although the doors of the state park stayed open, efforts to bring solar to Malakoff Diggins kept going. In 2013, CSPF was pleased to award another $4,000 to SYRCL for the evaluation of solar power options at the park.

After thorough analysis and evaluation, the cost to bring solar power to Malakoff Diggins was estimated at $700,000, including preliminary plans, working drawings, and construction. Earlier this summer the funding proposal was adopted by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown. Solar energy is coming to Malakoff!

Learn More and Plan Your Visit

Malakoff Diggins SHP is located in the historic town of North Bloomfield, 26 miles northeast of Nevada City, and encompasses 3,200 acres in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills region.

The park was created in 1965 by concerned citizens to preserve the largest hydraulic gold mining operation in the United States, an operation that devastated the area from the mid-1800s on. Visitors to Malakoff Diggins can view the hydraulic mining pit, which showcases the appalling scale of environmental impacts caused by hydraulic mining throughout northern California. Huge cliffs have been carved into the mountains by the gold mining technique of washing away entire mountains to find the precious metal. The destruction resulted in the first environmental protection law handed down by the federal court in 1884 to control further mining efforts.

Malakoff Diggins SHP offers over 20 miles of recreational trails. Swimming and fishing are also available, and a popular Kids Fishing Derby is held each May. Miner’s Cabins and Campgrounds are very popular.

This park is a very popular destination for students learning about California Gold Rush history and offers teachers an overnight Environmental Living Program where students learn period crafts and experience living in the Gold Rush era.

Learn more at DPR’s Malakoff Diggins web page and Friends of North Bloomfield and Malakoff Diggins.

Huge Step Forward for Land and Water Conservation Fund

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Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz. Photo by Stanislav Sedov via Flickr

Great news today for the protection of our open spaces.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed a permanent authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), after the previous one expired last fall. This is a huge step forward. In fact, on the way to passage, a damaging amendment was voted down summarily. The House has already passed a bill and the two bills will be taken up in conference committee and reconciled.

The battle to get reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation has been hard fought over the last year. And the fight to ensure that adequate funding moved into LWCF has been going on for much longer. CSPF has participated in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, a very large coalition effort to speak up on behalf of full funding and more recently the reauthorization, helping as need be, with the California delegation. You may remember we collected letters from Californians in late 2015 for this purpose.

The LWCF is the single largest federal source of funding for conservation in the United States. It is funded from off-shore oil and gas royalties, and was intended to fund $900 million in conservation projects annually. Although it has rarely hit that mark of funding, it has done enormous good anyway with thousands of projects funded here in California, in state parks, in particular, but all of the parks systems the state hosts.

The steps ahead are not certain but this is such an important milestone that we wanted to share the good news.

You can read today’s press release from the Coalition here: LWCF Coalition Statement – Senate Energy Bill Final.

Let’s keep up the good work!

 

Thank You for a Great Earth Day

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Earth Day volunteers hunt for debris at Sonoma Coast State Park in Jenner.

Thank you, CSPF members, supporters, and volunteers — you pulled off another great Earth Day event this past Saturday!

Over 2,000 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and tackled dozens of improvement projects at 27 state parks from Mendocino down to Los Angeles. They removed invasive plants and graffiti, installed picnic benches and displays, built food storage lockers, installed drip irrigation systems, painted work sheds and bathrooms, picked up trash along shorelines and lakes, planted native shrubs and bushes, and more.

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Volunteers plant and water native species at Candlestick Point.

See photos and details of each park here.

These thousands of contributed volunteer hours helped get parks ready for the busy summer season, which is especially important given the continued budget restrictions affecting the state parks system.

In addition to volunteering, hundreds of you made donations to our Earth Day Campaign. Thanks to you, we hit the $15,000 target and earned the matching grant from our friends at The Donner Foundation.

Thank you one and all for your generosity! You’re making great things happen for the parks we all love.

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Volunteers at Crystal Cove enjoyed a beautiful view while they worked.

Would you like more opportunities to volunteer in parks? Maybe you came to Earth Day and had a good time, or maybe you were sad to miss it and would like to try another time. Either way, check out our Park Champions program.  We have several volunteer events each month, including some special events next weekend in partnership with Take It Outside, California! 

 

 

Earth Day is made possible by our presenting sponsor Pacific Gas and Electric Company, associate sponsors SUBWAY Restaurants, Edison International and Oracle, and grant providers Microsoft, Southern California Gas Company, Goldman Sachs, The Nature Conservancy — and YOU, our members.

A Day in the Life: Earth Day Volunteer

Our Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup Event is next Saturday, April 16. We need volunteers to join us to work on much-needed improvement projects at 27 state parks across California. Join us for a great day outdoors in a park working side by side with fellow community members to make a real difference this Earth Day.

If you are still debating whether or not to volunteer, here’s what your Earth Day might be like if you sign up (hint: it will be awesome).

8:30am – 9am: You arrive at the park (following directions from the website) and park for free (!) because we appreciate our volunteers. You follow signs to the check in table head over to register, sign a waiver and say hello.

While other volunteers get registered, you enjoy some graciously-donated coffee from Peet’s Coffee and breakfast treats from Fruit Guys, Nature’s Path, and Lundenberg.

9am – The event organizers kick off the event! They welcome all the volunteers, give a safety talk, and explain the projects for the day. If there is more than one project, you pick the one that sounds good to you and join that group. Grab some gloves and tools and get ready to work!

9:30am – 12:30pm – You get work done! You help your team with the projects, get to know people, enjoy being outside, and have a great time.

12:30 pm – You did it! Look around and take in the improvements you made. Then gather together with the team to enjoy some lunch from SUBWAY Restaurants, and maybe get some fun prizes like Chipotle.

 

So what do you say? Will you join us next Saturday in a park near you?

See a map of the parks, read project descriptions, and register to volunteer online. Registration will close early next week, so sign up today!

 

Thanksgiving week in Big Basin Redwoods State Park!

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest State Park, established in 1902. This park features ancient coast redwoods that are among the tallest and oldest trees on Earth. These California trees can reach higher than 320 feet, and their trunks can grow more than 27 feet wide. And these trees can live for more than 2,000 years! In this park you can enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, lush waterfalls, more than 80 miles of roads and trails, and a fascinating natural and cultural history. Here are some events to check out this week!

Thanksgiving Day, November 26

All hikes start at Park Headquarters

Redwood Grove Loop Walk – 11 am and 2 pm, 0.5 mi
A 0.5 mile stroll through a magnificent old growth redwood forest. See the famous Mother Tree, the Father of the Forest and the incredible Chimney Tree on this 90 minute walk.

The Road Less Traveled – A Dog-Friendly Walk – 9:30 am, 3 mi
On North Escape Road, a paved road closed to traffic. A three mile, two hour round trip walk with a docent. See stunning old-growth redwood groves along beautiful Opal Creek. With a discussion about redwood ecology and park history.

 

Black Friday, November 27

All hikes start at Park Headquarters

Meteor Trail Hike – 10:30 am, 6 mi
A docent will be leading a hike that features mountain streams, oak woodlands, chaparral and redwoods. There will be a discussion of forests, flowers and fires on a six mile, 3.5 hour hike.

Redwood Grove Loop Walk – 11 am and 2 pm, 0.5 mi
A 0.5 mile stroll through a magnificent old growth redwood forest. See the famous Mother Tree, the Father of the Forest and the incredible Chimney Tree on this 90 minute walk.

Coffee Talk and Crafts – 9 am to Noon
The Sempervirens Room next to Park Headquarters will have free coffee or hot chocolate. A docent will be there to answer any questions. There will also be a craft activity got kids!

 

Saturday, November 28

All hikes start at Park Headquarters

The Road Less Traveled – A Dog-Friendly Walk – 9:30 am, 3 mi
On North Escape Road, a paved road closed to traffic. A three mile, two hour roundtrip walk with a docent. See stunning old-growth redwood groves along beautiful Opal Creek. With a discussion about redwood ecology and park history.

Redwood Grove Loop Walk – 11 am and 2 pm, 0.5 mi
A 0.5 mile stroll through a magnificent old growth redwood forest. See the famous Mother Tree, the Father of the Forest and the incredible Chimney Tree on this 90 minute walk.

 

Sunday, November 29

All hikes start at Park Headquarters

Redwood Grove Loop Walk – 11 am and 2 pm, 0.5 mi
A 0.5 mile stroll through a magnificent old growth redwood forest. See the famous Mother Tree, the Father of the Forest and the incredible Chimney Tree on this 90 minute walk.

Art, Books and Coffee – 9:30 am to 12:30 pm
In the beautiful redwood Sempervirens Room, choose a book or two to read with your family, while sipping coffee, tea or hot chocolate next to a roaring fire. There will be a docent available to help you find the perfect book for your family to enjoy, answer your questions about the park and provide an artful craft for your children.

 

Photos: Redwood photos by Sean Peck. Sign photo by Charles Tu

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Celebrated!

Every November people from near and far gather at Pigeon Point Light Station State Park to mark the anniversary of the first time—in 1872—its Fresnel Lens was lit to guide mariners. A technological marvel, even by today’s standards, the first order Fresnel Lens stands 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, and weighs 2,000 pounds. Though the lens is now on display in the adjacent Fog Signal Building, the lighthouse remains an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation.

After 143 years of weathering wind, salt water and other harsh elements, the lighthouse is closed for a major rehabilitation project led by CSPF. Phase One, an interim stabilization of the tower by removing the lens and sealing all cracks to prevent water intrusion, has been completed. Drawings for the remaining three phases (upper tower, lower tower, oil house) are pending approval and a series of events to kick off the restoration campaign are in the works.

The lens will not return to the upper tower until repairs are completed, but that didn’t stop the festivities enjoyed by over 1,000 attendees on Saturday. During the day, families took docent-led nature and history walks, children made their own lighthouses while sipping hot chocolate, musicians serenaded the crowds with songs about lighthouses, Beyond the Border food truck served up delicious meals, and everyone stopped by the Fog Signal Building for viewings of the magnificent lens and its prisms of light.

Shortly after sunset, an audience gathered for a slide show of the construction drawings by Architectural Resources Group (ARG) which were projected onto the lighthouse itself. Then a short video entitled “It’s A Long Way to Pigeon Point” (by docents Stuart Nafey and Peter Bohacek) described historic transportation modes used to reach the lighthouse, as well as marine mammals and birds that migrate past the area.

After the two showings, other images were projected onto the spectacular lighthouse screen—including a lava lamp which only audience members of a certain generation could identify. Using the lighthouse as the backdrop for these two viewings was quite a spectacle. The volunteers at Pigeon Point plan to do it again next year, so save the date of November 12, 2016.

Photos by James Zhang

Kids Teaching Kids About State Parks

Last month in Chico, California approximately fifty 11th and 12th grade students from Pleasant Valley High School’s ACE-LIFE Academy HERO and Careers with Kids classes had their annual Public Safety Day for K-6 students in our area.

The event is an educational experience for hundreds of elementary students. The high school students researched and collaborated on a safety topic of their group’s choice.  Some of the safety presentations included: California State Park safety, water safety, fire safety and playground safety.

It is exciting to see kids interested in state parks. What an amazing idea to teach other kids how to safely enjoy our state parks. The high school students also made a fun scavenger hunt to help others learn and enjoy even more. Great job!