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.

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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.

The Bowtie Parcel Offers Inspiring Community Space in Los Angeles

 

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The Bowtie Parcel. Photo by Michelle White

GUEST BLOG BY PARK CHAMPIONS CORE LEADER MICHELLE WHITE

 

In central Los Angeles, adjacent to Rio de Los Angeles State Park, lies a bowtie-shaped piece of land that feels simultaneously scruffy and tranquil. Known as the Bowtie Parcel, these 18 acres of post-industrial land reside within the former Taylor Yard, a Southern Pacific Railroad service facility.

The Bowtie, acquired by California State Parks in 2003, reveals the potential of imagination and transformation, akin to New York’s High Line, a rail line transformed into a landscaped urban paseo with Hudson River and skyscraper views. Within such dense metropolises, the ability to consciously redevelop once-blighted space and bring more nature to city dwellers reflects the substantial impact of space upon social relations. As Luis Rincon, Community Engagement Coordinator for California State Parks, says, “The health and vitality of a community depend on its green space, its open space.”

Setting foot into the Bowtie immediately evokes the immense variety and messy juxtaposition of nature and urbanity that represents Los Angeles as a whole, and the history of its river. White noise from not-too-distant freeways meets the rush of the river. Carefully-designed “earthworks” and interpretive signage meet furtively-scrawled graffiti. Bikers whizz by on land, while ducks cruise by on the water. Non-native fountain grass and Mexican fan palms meet and overtake decomposed asphalt, displaying nature’s uncanny ability to reclaim over time. Fragrant native plants white sage and yerba santa meet the vaguely chlorinated smell of the river. Concrete banks meet soft-bottom riverbed.

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The Bowtie Parcel. Photo by Michelle White

With the July 2015 passage of a $1.3-billion plan to revitalize the LA River, now pending approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and Congress, the Bowtie is already unique in its placement along the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows section of the river. In these 11 miles roughly between the 134 and 110 freeways, cement never set over the high water table, so while channelization severely disrupted the riparian habitat, wildlife returned to this area over time. Concrete still slopes down to the water, but Arundo donax (giant cane), an invasive grass from Southeast Asia, grows along the water in lush abundance, softening the scene – and preventing erosion. Herons, cormorants, egrets, carp and green sunfish call the river home. It’s an unexpected oasis.

Due to placement of the railroad adjacent to the LA River in the 1870s and channelization of the river in the 1930s, LA has remained fundamentally disconnected from its river as a recreational amenity for more than a century. However, groups such as Friends of the LA River, Play LA River, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the arts organization Clockshop have all worked to revitalize sections of the river.

In particular, Clockshop installed land art and interpretive signage at the Bowtie, working with LA-based artists and Woodbury Architecture for Civic Engagement (ACE) students, and facilitated events such as moonlit poetry readings, rain barrel workshops and urban campouts.

This past weekend Clockshop in partnership with California State Parks and the National Park Service, hosted an LA River Campout at the Bowtie. The popular reoccurring event offers Angelenos the opportunity to spend the night at the Bowtie, complete with dinner, campfire programming, and a survey of local flora and fauna. The Bowtie provides a central city setting to learn about LA’s abundant nature coexisting with the concrete, and to connect with community. As Rincon sums up, “The space is there, but when you add the people and the energy, it makes it come alive.”

Find more about the Bowtie, Clockshop and the LA River Campout here.

Thank You for a Great Earth Day

Earth Day

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!

 

State Park Events this Weekend to Escape the Super Bowl

It’s Super Bowl weekend. Are you just not that into football? Or would you like to get some exercise before you settle in for the big game? Either way, try out a state park this weekend! We’ve got five great ideas to get you started:

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STARGAZE IN A PARK

Fri. 2/5, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – East of San Diego

Join the Anza-Borrego Foundation on the roof deck of the visitor center to check out the night sky. Bring warm clothing, a chair or blanket to sit on, and binoculars if you have them. Photo by Thomas Haraikawa

 

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SEE A WHALE

Sat. and Sun. 2/6 and 2/7, 11:00 a.m.
MacKerricher State Park – North of Mendocino

Meet at the visitor center to learn from docents about the annual gray whale migration, then walk along the Laguna Point boardwalk to look for whales. Binoculars provided. Wear layers! Leashed pets OK. Photo by Gary Philbin

 

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COOK IN A STATE PARK

Sat. 2/6, 1:00 p.m.
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park – Downtown Santa Cruz

Explore different cooking styles of the people who lived and worked at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park for over 200 years, including hot rock cooking, tortilla frying on a Comal and baking in a Horno. Taste samples and make your own tortillas! Photo by Richard Zimmerman

 

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VOLUNTEER, CAMP AND KAYAK

Sat. and Sun. 2/6 and 2/7, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Salton Sea State Recreation Area – Southwest of Palm Desert

Sign up for a two-day project to help with ramada construction and grounds cleanup, and camp at the park for free Friday and Saturday nights. Plus, free kayaking on Saturday afternoon! Potable water, restrooms and showers available; no electricity. Photo by Thomas Haraikawa

 

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TRAVEL BACK IN TIME

Sat. and Sun. 2/6 and 2/7, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Tour of Ranch House 1:00 p.m.
Wilder Ranch State Park – West of Santa Cruz

Visit a dairy ranch from the 1800s and learn about California’s ranching history! The one-hour tour includes early California ranching buildings and restored workshops run by water power, as well as volunteers in period clothing. Photo by Diane Main

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

An Important Step for Parks

An important line in the sand got drawn for state parks last month when Governor Brown signed two bills into law, Assembly Bill (AB) 1478 (Blumenfield) and Assembly Bill (AB) 1589 (Huffman). Both bills have measures that will help California’s ailing state parks system.

AB 1478 appropriates the recently-identified $20.5 million in State Park and Recreation Fund funding to the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to keep parks open that had previously been slated for closure. The bill also contains new qualifications for appointing members to the nine-member State Park and Recreation Commission. The changes to the Commission are intended to improve its ability and capacity to provide oversight of DPR and foster a more meaningful connection between the public, park stakeholders, and DPR. AB 1478 also establishes a two-year moratorium on closing state parks, in Fiscal Year 12-13 and FY13-14.

Governor Brown made the first important step toward restoring public confidence in California’s state parks by signing AB 1478. The governor’s signature is a good sign faith on the part of California’s government that all the hard work of communities, organizations and donors across the state who stepped up to support their parks is recognized and appreciated. The governor also signed AB 1589 (Huffman), which requires DPR to develop a new action plan for increasing revenues in state parks, allows purchase of annual park passes on annual tax returns, and encourages an independent assessment of California’s state parks.

AB 1589 gives the state important tools for a future that is increasingly emphasizing the need for more self-generated revenue in our parks. While we do not believe that our state park system, a true public good, will ever be able to sustain itself without a core of dedicated, public funding, we do wholeheartedly agree that the movement toward more revenue generation should be done with a roadmap. The action plan required in AB 1589 requires such a roadmap and maintains the need for revenue ideas to be appropriate to the mission and uses of our state parks.

We look forward to working with the governor, Legislature and all Californians to implement provisions of AB 1478 and AB 1589 and to maintain and strengthen the legacy in our state parks.

Join us for an online forum on “Saving Our State Parks”

Click to register!

California Preservation Foundation and California State Parks Foundation are offering a FREE online forum, “Saving Our State Parks,” on Tuesday, September 18 at 12 p.m. This online forum is open to the public.

Registration is FREE so sign up now to reserve your spot!

According to the Department of Parks and Recreation, 235 of California’s 279 state park units contain significant cultural resource features. These resources are currently at risk due to the ongoing budget crisis impacting California’s state parks.

CSPF’s VP of Government Affairs Traci Verardo-Torres will provide an overview as to why California’s state parks are at risk, what is being done to address the problem, and how organizations and individuals can get involved in efforts to Save Our State Parks.

The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session. If you have a specific question you would like to submit ahead of time please email it to Jennifer Gates at jgates@californiapreservation.org.

For additional information or questions please contact California Preservation Foundation at cpf@californiapreservation.org or call 415-495-0349.

State Park Closure Update

Año Nuevo State Park (c) Charles Tu

The outlook for California state parks took a positive turn last week after some budget action in Sacramento.  On Wednesday evening, Gov. Brown signed the FY 2012-13 Budget with a little added funding for state parks.  The budget does not “save” state parks. However, the budget does preserve some of the additional funding for state parks that the Legislature proposed in the final budget.

The breakdown:

(1)    The governor approved redirecting $13 million from existing unspent Prop 84 funds to a new State Park Enterprise Fund that can be only used for capital projects intended to generate new revenue for state parks, or to help them improve fee collection.  Note: this is not new money; it was already in DPR’s budget.

(2)    The governor approved $3 million from the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Fund and $7 million from the Motor Vehicle Fuel Account that can be used for state park operations.

(3)    The governor did veto some pieces of the Sustainable Parks Proposal, including $7 million of the originally proposed $10 million fund transfer from the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Fund to State Parks, and the transfer of $10 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to State Parks.

We are pleased to see the funding for the State Park Enterprise Fund included in this budget, and we support efforts to identify new opportunities for DPR to generate revenues and more efficiently collect user fees. However, this funding is another temporary solution. State parks continue to face a budget crisis resulting in service reductions and unprecedented closures. In other words, we are not out of the woods yet.

Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park (c) Mike Shoys