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…

Advocacy

“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.

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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.

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

Wilder Ranch by Stanislav Sedov via Flickr.jpg

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!

 

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!

Parks Bills Move to Governor’s Desk

Late last Thursday, the Legislature passed two important state park bills, AB 1589 and AB 1478, which we were very happy to see.

AB 1589 (Huffman) helps move state parks toward sustainability by providing a comprehensive and creative approach to searching for additional funding streams.

AB 1478 (Blumenfield) is a budget trailer bill that will direct a portion of the hidden funds to state parks and establishes a two-year moratorium on closing state parks.

Both bills have moved to Governor Brown’s desk. He has 30 days to sign or veto them. In the case of the budget trailer bill, he can “blue pencil” portions that contain appropriations, which would be akin to vetoing or reducing parts of the appropriations.

We  hope you will help us request the governor’s signature on AB 1478 in particular. You can send him a letter now.

Updates from Sacramento

The long road to stopping park closures. Photo by Michael Keel @ Mt. Tam

With the park closure deadline quickly approaching (July 1 for those of you who forgot), there is plenty of attention being paid to state parks in our Capitol.  Our legislators are looking for ways to find extra funding for parks, and some things are moving along successfully. Here’s a recap of recent action for easy tracking:

Budget
In late May the Legislature largely agreed on a funding proposal to help keep our state parks open. Dubbed the “Ongoing Sustainable Parks Proposal,” this plan includes some temporary transfers of funding from other programs to state parks and a direction for more innovation and efficiencies in parks management. This will now be part of ongoing budget deliberations.

Legislation
Assembly Bill (AB) 1589 (Huffman) passed 78-0 out of the Assembly and will now be heard in the Senate. AB 1589 is an omnibus state parks bill that establishes a variety of mechanisms to move state parks toward sustainability. Senate Bill 974 and Senate Bill 1078 (Evans) were also passed out of the Senate and will be heard in the Assembly.

Stayed tuned for more updates as this legislation (hopefully) moves along!

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.

A Successful Week for Parks: Solutions Come Slowly but Surely

This week has brought some really good news for California state parks, and it’s only Thursday! Here’s a little recap, some resource links, and a general prediction of what good news lies ahead.

Tuesday

On Tuesday Gov. Brown signed AB 42. This was a huge accomplishment, and this bill certainly traveled a long and winding road. Some of you may recall visiting your legislators in the capitol to tell them about this bill way back in March. Well thankfully your hard work, and the work of those who signed petitions, sent letters and made phone calls, paid off! Thank you guys for supporting this bill all the way through.

So what does it mean to have this bill in place now? (Maybe you even want to read the bill, which you can do here.) It means we have new options for keeping state parks open. Now, instead of asking, “Can you provide money to keep this park open?” we can ask questions like, “Can your nonprofit run the campsites in this park?” or “Can your nonprofit operate this ENTIRE park?” The pool of resources just got a whole lot bigger, which is exciting.

Thursday

Earlier today, more good news came through the wire. California State Parks announced in a release that three of the state parks on the closure list are going to remain open thanks to the National Parks Service (NPS). Operations of Tomales Bay, Samuel P. Taylor, Del Norte Redwoods will now be supported by NPS. If you know these parks, you know this is a great partnership because of the close proximity of these state parks to national park land. We are very happy to see NPS continue its long history of working closely with California State Parks and step up once again to take care of these parks that are such an integral part of those areas.

Yay! They saved Tomales Bay! Photo © Patrick Ulrich

Sounds like our Facebook fans are also really happy about the news. They are buzzing about it:

“Yay for California State Parks! I grew up going camping at Samuel P. Taylor State Park. I’m so pleased to hear that it will stay open.”

“This is wonderful – AND – I hope will be extended to the other parks deemed for closure as well. This has got to be done!”

Join them in the conversation!

Tomorrow?

After a week like this it seems right to feel optimistic. As they say, things always come in threes, so I think there’s more good news to come. Maybe that’s a little superstitious, but I’m still hoping for a hat trick of good state parks news this week!

And if not tomorrow, we can be sure that soon enough there will be news of nonprofits stepping up to help state parks, thanks to the authority they will now have from AB 42. Onward!

Who do you predict will be the next organization to step up on behalf of a state park they care about?

Citizens, unite for park legislation!

“The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead

Let’s take a page or two out of the books of Alexis and Margaret and make sure we are getting involved in the legislative process that is happening before our eyes, Californian citizens.

Gov. Brown is starting to review the nearly 600 bills (!) on his desk. Now is the time to let him know you want to see his signature on Assembly Bill 42. Sign this CSPF-sponsored petition to ask for his support. Here’s an excerpt from the petition:

Dear Governor Jerry Brown,
As a strong supporter of California’s state parks, I’m writing to urge you to sign Assembly Bill 42 by Assemblymember Huffman. AB 42 is an important tool that allows the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to enter into operating agreements with nonprofits to operate state parks. […]

In addition to the online petition, if you are in the Sacramento area, please come sign a petition in real life at CSPF’s (Park)ing Day site! We will have a parking space park on the corner of 16th and J in Sacramento from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. this Friday. Take a couple minutes to sign our oversized park closure petition postcards and enjoy our little PARK(ing) space.

Hope to see you there, citizens.