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.


(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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

malakoff diggins craig vanzante

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.

lf ghs march

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.

The Bowtie Parcel Offers Inspiring Community Space in Los Angeles



The Bowtie Parcel. Photo by 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.


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.

Take It Outside, California!

26222329370_0573293b7a_oThis weekend, April 30 and May 1, is Take It Outside, California! It’s an annual event, organized by our partner California Council of Land Trusts, encouraging Californians to get outside and enjoy our parks and open spaces.

Organizations all over California are planning outdoor events for you to enjoy, including ours! We invite Californians to enjoy healthy activities, celebrate our public lands, and Take It Outside, California! next weekend with our special Park Champions work days.

We have planned 5 special, family-friendly volunteer workdays in state parks in partnership with Take It Outside. All tools and training provided. Projects over 3 hours also include lunch.

Will Rogers, Baldwin Hills and Rio de Los Angeles are still looking for volunteers. Register on our website to participate. 

If these parks aren’t in your area, visit Take It Outside California! to discover new parks near you, and sign the pledge to take it outside. Free public activities include a guided dog walk, family festival, kite flying, creek exploration, outdoor Zumba, and a cardio hike with yoga (yiking!).

See you out there.

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.


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.


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.

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:



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




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




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




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




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







Star Wars in State Parks!

If you’re like us, you’re pretty excited for the premier of the new Star Wars movie. If you’re re-watching some of the old films to prepare, pay special attention to the scene in Endor. Or, even easier, take a look at this clip:


Look familiar? Kind of like some California redwoods you may know?

In fact, those are California redwoods! Parts of Return of the Jedi were filmed in California state parks. The scenery for the Imperial speeders chase above was filmed in our very own Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.

Other location scenes were filmed in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Patrick’s Point State Park.

Pretty cool!

Here are some other Star Wars locations you can experience for yourself from our friends over at Weekend Sherpa. 

Enjoy your Star Wars experience in the theater AND in the parks.

‘Tis the Season for Winter Camping

There are many wonderful choices for where to camp in California state parks, and now is one of the best times of year to do it, especially in Southern California where summer temperatures can be a little high for many campers. With the weather cooling off though, it’s important to learn a few tips in advance so that you stay warm at night when the temperature drops.

Stay Warm

To make sure you aren’t cold at night, invest in a down or DownTek sleeping bag; it keeps you warm and isn’t too heavy to travel with. Also, make sure you have warm, dry clothing to sleep in, as well as a hat and gloves for the chilly mornings. Wearing wool or moisture-wicking fibers will help keep you dry throughout your camping trip, reducing the need to bring too much extra clothing.


Cook Good Food

Cold weather camping recipes lend themselves more to hearty stews and chili than summer foods like hot dogs and hamburgers. For a gourmet meal by the fire, bring along your Dutch oven or plan to cook meals in a foil packet over the fire.

For a quick and easy campfire recipe, do some of the prep work at home: slice vegetables and package them in a plastic bag, and create your spice mix for each meal at home, so you don’t need to bring multiple containers. For chili, mix chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and a few bay leaves together and package it in a small plastic baggie. For a chicken stew spice mix, combine sage, basil, thyme, salt, garlic powder, and parsley.

Check out the chart below for tips on what method to use to cook each type of meal.


For more information on fall camping, read Amy Whitley’s article on

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Celebrated!

Every November people from near and far gather at Pigeon Point Light Station State Park to mark the anniversary of the first time—in 1872—its Fresnel Lens was lit to guide mariners. A technological marvel, even by today’s standards, the first order Fresnel Lens stands 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, and weighs 2,000 pounds. Though the lens is now on display in the adjacent Fog Signal Building, the lighthouse remains an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation.

After 143 years of weathering wind, salt water and other harsh elements, the lighthouse is closed for a major rehabilitation project led by CSPF. Phase One, an interim stabilization of the tower by removing the lens and sealing all cracks to prevent water intrusion, has been completed. Drawings for the remaining three phases (upper tower, lower tower, oil house) are pending approval and a series of events to kick off the restoration campaign are in the works.

The lens will not return to the upper tower until repairs are completed, but that didn’t stop the festivities enjoyed by over 1,000 attendees on Saturday. During the day, families took docent-led nature and history walks, children made their own lighthouses while sipping hot chocolate, musicians serenaded the crowds with songs about lighthouses, Beyond the Border food truck served up delicious meals, and everyone stopped by the Fog Signal Building for viewings of the magnificent lens and its prisms of light.

Shortly after sunset, an audience gathered for a slide show of the construction drawings by Architectural Resources Group (ARG) which were projected onto the lighthouse itself. Then a short video entitled “It’s A Long Way to Pigeon Point” (by docents Stuart Nafey and Peter Bohacek) described historic transportation modes used to reach the lighthouse, as well as marine mammals and birds that migrate past the area.

After the two showings, other images were projected onto the spectacular lighthouse screen—including a lava lamp which only audience members of a certain generation could identify. Using the lighthouse as the backdrop for these two viewings was quite a spectacle. The volunteers at Pigeon Point plan to do it again next year, so save the date of November 12, 2016.

Photos by James Zhang