Our Parks, Our Future embodies the belief that youth - now and for generations to come - hold within them the future of our California state parks. At the heart of our work, the California State Parks Foundation advocates for policies that support an excellent state parks system – a system that provides equitable access for all Californians to experience its beauty and benefits. We firmly believe this mission-critical work begins with prioritizing youth first. Our Parks, Our Future represents our dedication to the vision of meaningful and transformative experiences for youth in parks that will create the next generation of empowered parks stewards who, in return, will experience the positive benefits of parks, building within them a deep appreciation and commitment to California’s state parks.
We know our parks are a critical, necessary benefit all Californians should have access to. Unfortunately, we also know that not all Californians have an opportunity to enjoy parks and experience the positive impacts parks have on improved health, happiness and quality of life.
California is changing: its population, climate and attitudes. It is the most populous state in the nation, and one of the most diverse in the world. Unfortunately, state park users and visitors do not reflect the diversity, cultures and needs of all Californians. This is also true of the rising generation who are spending more and more time indoors than 20 years ago.
At a national level, youth spend less time outside than prison inmates, playing freely outside for just four to seven minutes a day on average, according to the recent report The Path Ahead. Additional research shows that youth spend half as much time outside today as they did 20 years ago. Furthermore, 40% of U.S. School Districts have eliminated recess, and outdoor education programs and field trips have declined significantly over the years.
With 6.2 million students enrolled in California’s public schools in 2016-17, it’s unfortunate not all Californian children have the opportunity to visit, learn and explore state parks as outdoor classrooms. This is problematic when considering the future generation of parks stewards who will support, protect and preserve our lands. Now is the time to make concerted efforts to grow the next generation of park stewards who reflect the future of California.
To foster the next generation of empowered park stewards, we have embarked on a strategy that puts our theory of change into action. This involves,
Raise yours for Our Parks, Our Future with us by:
We believe we all have a responsibility to preserve our parklands, grow the next generation of stewards and strengthen Californians’ commitment to state parks as owners, stewards and investors. More than 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act, ushering in a park ethos of providing the public with outdoor recreation, while preserving the land for future generations. This is the legacy given to us. Together we will preserve it and pass it on to our children.
We are realizing Our Parks, Our Future through:
Avocacy that influences long-term, sustainable change through policy that expands access, addresses equity, and strives for park excellence for the enjoyment of those who experience state parks:
Programs that prioritize the enhancement of state parks and the user experience:
The strategic investment in partnerships that engage youth outdoors to enhance the health, happiness and quality of life, while building the future generation of park stewards: