Park Advocates Bring State Parks to Sacramento

Tuesday, May 5 marked another successful Park Advocacy Day at the Capitol hosted by California State Parks Foundation. This year, over 160 park advocates from all over the state joined together for a day of advocacy and lobbying on behalf of state parks. The day included presentations by legislators, an expo on the Capitol lawn featuring state park partners and activities, a busy afternoon of legislative visits, and an evening reception to honor two park supporters in the Legislature — Kristin Olsen and Anthony Rendon.

The expo on the Capitol lawn was themed, “California State Parks are Great Places for You and Me.” It included booths from dozens of park partners showcasing why they love parks and what activities their local parks provide. Booths included trail stewardship, water sampling, recycling, theater, animals, historic dress, fire research, documentary, marine life, and more.

Advocates lobbied three bills in particular during their legislative appointments:

  1. Assembly Bill 327 (Gordon) — This bill would extend a prevailing wage exemption for public works volunteers for the next 7 years so that volunteers may continue to offer unpaid work to state parks. Advocates expressed how important volunteer work is in state parks, particularly as budget cuts have stretched park staff too thin.
  2. Assembly Bill 988 (Stone) — This bill would create an Outdoor Environmental Education and Recreation Grant Program within DPR to award grants to public organizations and/or nonprofits for outdoor environmental education and recreation programs. Advocates emphasized how important it is to give kids, particularly at-risk youth, the opportunity to experience the outdoors.
  3. Senate Bill 317 (De León) — This bill would create the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Rivers and Coastal Protection Bond of 2016, a $2.4 billion bond to be placed on the November 2016 ballot for approval by California voters. The bond would provide substantial funding for various park areas, including local parks, state parks, rivers/lakes/streams, coastal conservation, climate resilience, and more.

After advocates finished meeting with nearly every office in the Capitol, they rejoined together at the Elks Tower Ballroom for a reception to celebrate their hard work, as well as recognize Assemblymembers Kristin Olsen and Anthony Rendon for their work on behalf of state parks.

It was a great day in Sacramento. Kudos to all the amazing park advocates who came out to support their state parks!

Action Alert: Write an Email to Stop the Tollroad

We need your voice! Take action now and write to the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board to urge them stop the Foothill tollroad at their March 16 hearing. Comments are due February 18, 2015 before 2 p.m., and public support is critical.

San Onofre State Beach Image ©Julianne Bradford

What’s Going On

The proposed Foothill tollroad, if built on the route preferred by the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), would literally bisect San Onofre State Beach and would run through some of Southern California’s most intact habitat lands in Orange and San Diego counties. The California Coastal Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce turned down the TCA’s original proposal. Even so, the TCA came up with a new strategy to first construct the northern segment — called the Tesoro Extension — thus creating pressure for full completion.

When asked for a water quality permit, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board saw through this ruse, and refused to issue a permit for Tesoro until such time as the entirety of the project was before them. Upon appeal, the State Water Board affirmed the legal basis for this denial. Now, the San Diego Regional Board needs to make “findings” at its March 16 hearing to finalize its decision.

Our Position

As you know, the California State Parks Foundation, along with a great coalition of other organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Surfrider Foundation, the Endangered Habitats League, Sea and Sage Audubon and the California Coastkeeper, have been working to prevent the tollroad from destroying San Onofre State Beach for many years. We keep winning and then another challenge appears on the horizon. Fundamentally, this battle is about whether state parks are protected lands or outside agencies may make use of these lands willy-nilly for non-park purposes. We believe state parks should be protected.

How You Can Help

Please help us reinforce the San Diego Regional Water Board decision to reject the toll road’s water quality permit by sending an email with our online form.

Comments are due by 2 p.m. Wednesday, February 18!

Toll Road Proposal Rejected

GREAT NEWS! The proposal to put a toll road through San Onofre State Beach was rejected by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board at a hearing yesterday. This is a huge win for the park.

The Water Quality board rejected a permit for the Transportation Cooridor Agencies (TCA) that would have allowed a six-mile expansion — the Tesoros Extension — of the Foothills South Tollroad. Opponents to the proposal felt this was just the first step towards a longer extension into the park and Trestles coastal habitat area.

Photo by Julianne Bradford

Photo by Julianne Bradford

Over 300 people attended the hearing to protest the toll road, and there were 6 hours of public testimony. Incredible!

Here is an article that sums up the hearing.

Thank you to all who helped to protect this park.

Recommendations for a Better Parks System

Yesterday, the Little Hoover Commission released a report on state parks titled “Beyond Crisis: Recapturing Excellence in California’s State Park System.” We at CSPF have been reading the report with great interest, and we think you should be interested, too.

But first … a little background on the Little Hoover Commission. It’s a 13-member independent state oversight agency appointed by the governor and Legislature. The commission investigates state government operations and writes reports and recommendations that promote efficiency, economy and improved service.

About a year ago, the commission began to look at the long-term vision of California state parks and the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). This was a lengthy process which included many hearings and interviews. CSPF staff testified several times before the commission.

The 120-page report was released Monday morning, and can be downloaded online.

The report is direct and comprehensive. The Executive Summary is quick to read and will give you a good flavor for the report. Some of the top level recommendations to the state include:California State Parks - cover page 1

  1. Develop a new vision for DPR.
  2. Assess which parks should remain state parks and which ones would be better transferred to local control.
  3. Enable state parks to generate more revenue with a more enterprise-based operating model.
  4. Commit General Fund support to DPR with flexibility for revenue generation and more transparent financial reporting.
  5. Develop incentives and performance measures reported in annual performance reports.
  6. Give DPR more flexibility to hire and promote a range of skilled employees.

CSPF agrees with the commission’s top-level recommendations for the future direction of California’s state parks. We find the call for a new vision for parks very consistent with our 2011 report: “A Vision for Excellence for California State Parks.” It was also consistent with the testimony that CSPF gave before the commission.

Read our full statement about the report online.

We are excited to see what comes next for state parks, and we at CSPF plan to continue to be there to represent as your voice for state parks. What do you think about the report? Let us know in the comments.

Here’s to a positive future for our parks!

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.

Urge lawmakers to support Assembly Bill 1478

Advocacy in action.

Over the last two weeks, thousands of state park supporters have sent messages to their legislators urging them to allocate the recently-identified and unspent state park funds back into the state park system.

As a result of the strong outpouring of support from park supporters, lawmakers have introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1478 which will appropriate $20.5 million in State Park and Recreation Fund funding to keep parks open.

In addition to allocating this funding, AB 1478 also includes several other important provisions.

  • Prohibits the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) from closing or proposing the closure of a state park in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years.
  • Strengthens the State Park and Recreation Commission to improve their ability and capacity to provide oversight and a more meaningful connection between the public, park stakeholders, and the parks department.
  • Provides a one-time appropriation to ensure that all ongoing internal and external investigations into the DPR are fully funded.

We need your help to urge lawmakers to pass AB 1478. With only a couple days left in this legislative session, lawmakers will be making final decisions on this bill by Friday. We urge you to use our online system to send a message to your legislators and the governor specifically urging them to support AB 1478.

It only takes a minute!

More money, more problems

As we reported a few weeks ago, it was discovered and publicly disclosed that the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) had been hiding approximately $54 million in surplus funds for the past 12 years.  The parks community was shocked, surprised and angry to discover this news.  Why have we fought so hard against park closures and budget cuts when there was more money available to DPR?

Sonoma Coast State Beach. Photo by Mike Ryan.

Now that the dust has settled a little and audits are underway, it is clear to us the money that was “discovered” may or may not be used for its intended purpose: for the maintenance of our state parks.  It is up to the Legislature where that money should go, a decision they must make in the next 9 days before the legislative session ends for the year.

We are lobbying the Legislature to allocate the recently-identified $20.3 million in funding from the State Parks and Recreation Fund (SPRF) for use in state parks.  SPRF money comes from state park fees for day-use admission or parking, overnight camping or boating, and more.  We are concerned that the SPRF money is becoming a tempting target for budget raiding. After more than 14 months of tremendous work in communities around the state to keep our parks open, it would only add insult to injury for the Legislature to put those funds elsewhere or, even worse, claim to put them into state parks but simply reduce the park system’s General Fund allocation at the same time.

That said, we are asking for help in urging legislators to maintain access and support for California’s state parks by directing the recently-identified and unspent state park funds back into the state park system. Please join more than 3,000 park advocates who have already take action and use our online system to send a message to your legislators and the governor urging them to allocate these funds back into our state park system.

Your action is extremely important, as policymakers are expected to make a decision in the next week about how to allocate this funding.

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!”