What you can do for national parks during the shutdown

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Yosemite National Park

Like you, we keep up with news about any parks – not just state parks. We’ve seen our national parks in crisis the last few weeks during the government shutdown. The situation is serious: Wildlife picking through bins piled high with trash, latrines overflowing with waste, unfettered off-roading in fragile ecosystems and more.
If you share our concerns, here are some things you can do:

  1.  Contact your U.S. senator and representative and urge them to find an equitable solution to end the shutdown. National parks need funding and support.
  2.  We believe public lands should be open and available to all – but given current conditions, it’s worth re-considering plans until national parks are fully staffed, safe to visit and can more fully be enjoyed. In California our 280 state parks (as well as many other regional and local parks) are open, unaffected and waiting to be enjoyed.
  3.  If you do visit a national park, be prepared to carry out what you carry in, and practice “Leave No Trace” principles to protect plant and animal life. Ask other visitors you meet to do the same.
  4.  When national parks reopen, volunteer your time to clean up and restore areas damaged during the shutdown.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook as we continue to be the best resource we can for you. Thank you for being such an important part of the parks community.

Get more information about national parks during the government shutdown from National Park Foundation. 


P.S. Did you know that Yosemite used to be a state park? Set aside for public use and preservation as a California state park in 1864, it was designated as a national park in 1890, the third in the United States. Next year, it will celebrate its 130th birthday as a national park!


My 2019 intention

By Rachel Norton, Executive Director

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Coping with the everyday cares and stresses of parenting, work and life can really wear me down, and one of the promises I made to myself in 2018 was to focus more effort on self-care: eating better, getting enough sleep and exercise – the usual stuff. And I did pretty well at that, most weeks at least.

But in reflecting on the times I felt most joyful last year, I realized there were some common threads: spending time with friends and people I love, of course, and spending time in nature. I’ve written about some of those experiences, like the state parks road trip I took with my mom and sister last summer, and a visit to Mendocino state parks with my daughter. There were other trips, too, like a magical weekend on British Columbia’s Pender Island and three days in the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California.

Even when all I can manage to squeeze in is a walk to the beach near my apartment, I always feel happier and calmer afterwards. And it’s not just me . . . it’s science! For example, a 2015 Stanford study found that people who walked for 90 minutes in nature, as opposed to city streets, exhibited decreased activity in a part of the brain associated with depression. In some areas, doctors are even prescribing park visits as a powerful mental and physical health intervention.

Science is great, and yet really all I had to do was go back to the family photo album to remind myself of the joy that nature can bring. The picture at the top of this post is my daughter Jackie, now 19, splashing joyfully in the Tuolumne River when she was around age six. Anyone who has ever experienced a mountain river in June knows that they are ice cold. But that never bothered Jackie, and it never bothered me when I was younger either. (The Pacific Ocean off Northern California beaches is never much warmer than 55 degrees, but I remember splashing happily in the waves at Stinson Beach every Christmastime as a child – you just have to “get used to it,” i.e., get numb. Brrr!)

So, my intention for 2019 is even more simple than the one I made for 2018. It is to remember that I find great joy in nature, just like Jackie. I will hold this picture with me as I explore more of California’s amazing natural spaces, and especially state parks, this year!

What’s your intention for 2019? I’d love to read it in the comments!