How partnership benefits state parks

Rachel Norton, Executive Director DSC_0188

When you think of California’s incredible state parks, you probably think about special places you love – beaches, deserts, redwood forests, lakes and rivers, as well as so many historical and cultural treasures. I think about these special places, too, but I also think about the incredible partner organizations – many staffed only by volunteers – that support and nurture them.

Last month I had the opportunity to spend a day with representatives of almost 50 organizations that do great work in our state parks at our annual Park Partner Summit. When we connect partner organizations and work towards shared priorities, we mobilize and strengthen the state park movement.

This annual convening is a chance for us to connect and collaborate with like-minded partners – and to facilitate trainings and the sharing of tools and strategies to help build their organizational effectiveness. This year, park partners worked with consultants at Department of Here to learn to tell compelling stories about their work as passionate advocates on behalf of California’s state parks.

We also made sure attendees got lots of time to talk and share ideas and resources, because we know that being a part of a community of park supporters makes every organization stronger, including ours.  In our vision for the future, every one of our 280 state parks is surrounded by a community of support, because great parks really need great partners like the ones at our summit.

Through our work with partners, we focus on three key values:

1. Stewardship

MWCA MOSS group photo 2018

Photo courtesy of Mendocino Woodlands Camp Association

State parks belong to everyone. They must remain open and accessible, today and for generations to come – and educating the public about the experiences available in parks helps build the engagement and support they need.

For example, California State Parks Foundation provided funding to Mendocino Outdoor Science School, a program of the nonprofit Mendocino Woodlands Camp Association. During weeklong overnight trips,  students from all kinds of schools across Northern California experience and care for nature through discovery-based learning.

2. Connection

CSPF_Chino Hills_4

Photo courtesy of Outdoor Outreach

High-quality outreach and interpretation programs are essential to attracting new visitors and building familiarity and trust between the community and their state parks.

Environmental education nonprofit Outdoor Outreach used their California State Park Foundation grant to expand their work outside of their home-base in San Diego for the first time. Three overnight camping trips to Chino Hills State Park provided first-time park experiences  and a chance to connect away outside of school for 24 youth from high-poverty backgrounds.

3. Relevance


Photo courtesy Clockshop

Local communities must see themselves reflected in the activities and programs offered in their parks, and feel warmly welcomed to participate.

In Los Angeles, multidisciplinary arts organization Clockshop used the grant we awarded them for family field days at The Bowtie Project, a partnership between Clockshop and the Department of Parks and Recreation designed to create new conversations about art, politics and public space along the Los Angeles River.

By supporting California State Parks Foundation, you help support these incredible state park champions and their work to make our parks excellent, accessible and relevant to all Californians. We are grateful for your support – our partners are too!

Sacramento names to know


The legislative session is in full gear and over 2,500 bills addressing issues from privacy to fire prevention have just been introduced. As we review these bills and craft our legislative priorities for this year, we anticipate working with several key players who have championed parks before. Meet some of our elected officials with a track record of authoring legislation that ensures adequate and sustainable park funding and expands access so all Californians can positively experience state parks:

Senator Ben Allen, (D – 26)Ben Allen

Senator Allen’s bill to help keep our parks and beaches clean was signed at the end of the last legislative session, and in 2017 he authored legislation to ensure the State of California has right of first refusal on any federally-owned public lands, ensuring visitors can continue to enjoy these special places.

State parks in district: Dockweiler State Beach, Santa Monica State Beach, Topanga State Park, Will Rogers State Beach, Will Rogers State Historic Park

Senator Mike McGuire (D – 2)Mike McGuire

With 60 parks in senate district 2, Senator McGuire has more than any other State Senator. Last year, he helped honor our 2018 Grassroots Champion John Roney for his commitment to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

State parks in district: China Camp State Park, Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area, Trione-Annadel State Park and 57 others

Speaker Anthony Rendon (D – 63)Anthony Rendon

Speaker Rendon, previously Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, has authored important parks legislation and was a proud supporter of Proposition 68.

State parks in district: none

David ChiuAssemblymember David Chiu (D – 17)

A champion for Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, Assemblymember Chiu lives in the next neighborhood over. He spoke at a ribbon cutting last summer to celebrate new campsites in the park, only the second campground in the entire city and county of San Francisco.

State parks in district: Angel Island State Park, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area

Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D – 51)Wendy Carrilo

Elected in a special session in 2017, Assemblymember Carrillo quickly emerged as a strong supporter of state parks and connecting Californians to them. She introduced legislation to increase outdoor experiences for Californian youth and ensure safe access for bicyclists and pedestrians to parks. Last year, she spoke at our Park Advocacy Day.

State parks in district: Los Angeles State Historic Park, Rio de Los Angeles State Park

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D – 56)Eduardo Garcia

Our 2017 Legacy Award honoree, Assemblymember Garcia contributed heavily to passing Proposition 68 and served as Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, and continues that leadership position in 2019. In 2018 he authored a package of parks legislation that included establishing the Office of Sustainable Outdoor Recreation, supporting activities that promote economic development and job growth of the outdoor recreation economy in California.

State parks in district: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Picacho State Recreation Area, Salton Sea State Recreation Area and 3 others

Lorena Gonzalez FletcherAssemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D – 80)

Our 2018 Legacy award honoree, Assemblymember Gonzalez Fletcher was the first Latina to chair the Assembly Appropriations Committee in 2017-18. She has been a leader addressing coastal access barriers by expanding the availability of low-cost overnight accommodations along the state’s 1,100 miles of coastline.

State parks in district: Border Field State Park

Assemblymember Monique Limón (D – 37)Monique Limon

Assemblymember Limón authored legislation to increase the ability of under-served and at-risk communities to participate in outdoor environmental educational experiences at state parks and other public lands.

State parks in district: Carpinteria State Beach, El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, Gaviota State Park and 8 others