Sacramento, CA – More than 100 advocates walked the halls of the State Capitol today to drive awareness of issues, like equitable park access, that are impacting Californians and ensure state parks are protected, accessible and funded for future generations. Since 2004 the California State Parks Foundation has hosted Park Advocacy Day to demonstrate the political strength of the parks movement, build a strong community of advocates to support California’s state parks and drive action on issues that are impacting Californians’ ability to experience the many benefits of parks – like improved mental and physical health. This year’s event focused on breaking down barriers to access to improve and increase opportunities for all Californians to access their state parks, especially today’s youth.
“We are dedicated to realizing the vision of an excellent state park system, one that offers meaningful experiences supporting the health, recreational, cultural, educational, social and emotional benefits for all,” said Rachel Norton, Executive Director of the California State Parks Foundation. “Youth today lack access to the outdoors and the benefits our parks have to offer. Now more than ever we need to work together to ensure a California for all includes parks for all.”
Advocates representing major regions throughout the state used their voices to support California’s 280 state park system, encouraging legislators and policy staff to support bills that will enhance and improve them while opening up access for disadvantaged communities. Youth representatives from several organizations also had the opportunity to sit down with California’s First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom to discuss how the outdoors have impacted their lives.
“Thanks to the work done by the California State Parks Foundation I was able to meet with a remarkable group of kids who shared their stories of the important role nature can play in our lives,” said California’s First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “Every child should have the opportunity and access to grow, learn, play and connect with the outdoors – not only because it’s fun but because of the proven health benefits green spaces provide. A healthier future for all Californians starts in our parks and it starts with our kids.”
Throughout the day advocates voiced support for legislation like AB 559 (Carrillo) and AB 209 (Limόn), both of which aim to increase access to parks and nature, specifically for disadvantaged youth who lack opportunities to the crucial health benefits these places offer.
In recognition of their vision and leadership to increasing pathways to parks, the California State Parks Foundation also honored both Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo and Assemblymember Monique Limón today with the California State Park Foundation’s Legacy Award.
“In my district, parks and green spaces are limited and we need to work together to protect our natural resources and make them available to everyone,” said Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, District 51. “Having access to the outdoors is so important not only for the people in my community, but for all Californians so they can experience the many health and wellness benefits they have to offer.
“Access to outdoor experiences, is often out of reach for communities and students in low-income or underrepresented areas of the State,” said Assemblymember Monique Limón, District 37. “Studies have found that students who participate in outdoor education programs, experience strong increases in science test scores, and improvements in conflict resolution, problem solving and learning motivation. It is the goal of the state, that all people, including those that have historically not benefited from these experiences, have the opportunity to do so.”
For a comprehensive list of legislation championed at Park Advocacy Day, please visit www.calparks.org
About California State Parks Foundation
California State Parks Foundation is a member-supported nonprofit dedicated to protecting, improving and advocating for all of California’s state parks. With our community of supporters, we deliver innovative solutions for an excellent parks system by facilitating park improvements, inspiring stewardship, supporting partners, advocating for sound policies and connecting people to parks. Together we ensure that the natural beauty, rich culture and history, and recreational and educational opportunities of our 280 state parks are available for all to enjoy now and for generations to come