2022 State Parks Improvement Grantees
California State Parks Foundation’s State Parks Improvement Grant Round focused on investing in programs that improve parks and create innovative programs so visitors have meaningful and relevant experiences while visiting California state parks.
While there are barriers to visiting parks, there are also barriers in the way visitors experience a park once there. Visitors can experience hidden lessons that come to life through meaningful education and interpretation. This includes activities, presentations, publications, audio-visual media, signs, exhibits, and more.
For park visitors to have meaningful experiences, they must feel welcome, find it easy to orient themselves to park amenities, and easily access the stories that inspire, leading the visitors caring for the park’s natural and cultural history.
We are thrilled to provide 20 amazing state parks and park partner organizations with grants for programs across the state. The 2022 State Parks Improvement Grant Round includes $182,303.00 in funding that will support programs in one or more of the following areas of focus:
Reducing barriers and expanding access to parks so that all Californians have equitable access to the positive impact parks have on health, happiness, and quality of life.
Honoring History and Culture:
Preserving and honoring sites, artifacts, stories, and ideas that represent and reveal the wisdom, contributions, and experiences of everyone who has called California home.
Improving parks and innovating programs so that state park visitors have meaningful and relevant experiences while visiting their parks, leading to a lifelong connection.
Meet our 2022 State Parks Improvement grantees and get an inside look at their upcoming projects!
Friends of Lake Folsom and Natoma | Folsom Lake State Recreation Area | $10,000
Project: Cultural Landscape Development and Maintenance Project
California State Parks staff and Indigenous community members will conduct plant identification surveys to implement vegetation management. The surveys will identify invasive plant species for removal and native plant species to be maintained. Part of this process will develop a maintenance schedule and plan that allows local Indigenous entities to work closely with California State Parks and other agency personnel to ensure that invasive species are removed, and native species on-site are enhanced to increase health and vigor. In addition, interpretive panels and an art installation will be developed that reflects Indigenous culture. Local Indigenous entities will develop the art motifs through their schools, tribal government, or local Native American artisans.
Impact: Many park visitors and commuters who use this trail are unaware of the Native history in Folsom. This project will help to gain awareness of the important role Indigenous People and native plants have within our ecosystem.
The project will transform an urban park area that is often plagued with litter, graffiti, and occasional encampments. After this area is transformed, it will be a beautiful and safe place for visitors to experience the significance of Indigenous People from the area. Local Indigenous tribes will be able to use native plants as a teaching tool and resource for tribal members. Additionally, this project will help to take partnerships with local tribes, California State Parks, and FOLFAN to a new level. Working together on this project will be a foundation for collaboration with Indigenous tribes so that they can be appropriately represented and their stories told within a park unit where their culture was heavily impacted by colonization.
Test Plot | San Bruno Mountain State Park | $5,000
Project: Life on the Edge: Cultivating a Test Plot at San Bruno Mountain, Part I
This project will engage directly with residents that live close to the mountain. Test Plot will create a “street team” of local youth to co-design the outreach strategy and visit popular locations such as churches, parks, swap meets, etc. An outreach beacon will be set up to inform people about the project and solicit their input. Test Plot will host a series of engaging workshops, with food and childcare, to co-design all aspects of the project from the bottom up. They will work together with community members and park staff to catalog informal entry points and habitat types, evaluate the safety, access, and infrastructure, and finalize the Test Plot location(s), programs, and plant selection.
Impact: Life on the Edge hopes to provide a transformative experience for those who participate. Instead of having people visit passively, Test Plot can empower people to work with and care for the land in their community involving them in planning, site prep, planting, and maintenance.
San Bruno Mountain State Park is closely surrounded by neighboring cities and there are many entry points to the park that vary significantly in accessibility, signage, trail access, and how they are maintained. This project will focus on activating these sites near the base of the mountain that are directly adjacent to developed urban areas. These sites are important to activate because the main park entrance is not transit accessible. This project will improve accessibility by locating activities and signage at these boundaries.
San Bruno Mountain Watch | San Bruno Mountain State Park | $5,000
Project: Life on the Edge: Cultivating a Test Plot at San Bruno Mountain, Part II
The project will be carried out in collaboration with Test Plot and focus on plants that will be grown by San Bruno Mountain Watch (SBMW) at Mission Blue Nursery and sourced from seed/cuttings from San Bruno Mountain. Test Plot, SBMW, and park staff will develop site designs with community input and provide education on planting practices. Volunteer work days will be hosted to teach observation and maintenance skills to ensure the plots are cared for through establishment.
Impact: This project hopes that by having responsive test plots they will be able to reflect the priorities and distinct cultures of the adjacent communities. This will help engage the communities in the park and help develop park stewards.
Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association | Anderson Marsh State Historic Park | $9,220.00
Project: Creating New Park Programs for Visitors and Improving Equitable Access to Anderson Marsh State Historic Park
The program will create a "pilot project" that will result in 8 twice-monthly special "senior days" being held at the park over a four-month period in the spring of 2023. Seniors will be bused at no cost from Lake County senior centers to attend a day at the park, including two interpretive programs each day and a free picnic lunch. The programs will be designed to provide a meaningful connection to the long history of the Indigenous Peoples who lived on the land now known as Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, explain the history of the Europeans who more recently lived on this land, and allow participants to learn about and experience the rich natural history, plant habitats, and wildlife found in the park.
Impact: The overall goal of this project is to make participants feel welcomed and have an easily accessible experience of the cultural, historical, and natural resources on display at the park. The project will increase equitable access to the park and overcome barriers created by lack of transportation. The project will also help to overcome the barriers to access created by the worry expressed by some seniors that "they don't know what to do" to visit the park. The special programs are designed to facilitate a connection to the park and its resources.
CyArk | Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park | $10,000.00
Project: Interactive Storytelling at California State Parks
CyArk will work with California State Parks to develop web-based 3D tours of Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park using previously collected data and multimedia, alongside newly created content developed in collaboration with tribal leaders. The resulting tours will be web-based, embeddable on partner websites, and optimized for viewing on mobile as well, ensuring broad access to the content. To accomplish this program, CyArk will leverage its newly created virtual guided tour platform as well as existing 3D data, multimedia, and relationships from past projects. The development of a new virtual 3D guided tour will provide the park with virtual resources necessary to engage audiences with limited access to the park. The 3D guided tour will support a new curriculum-based initiative at Big Basin Redwoods State Park and provide opportunities for audiences with limited access to this place to take part in the site’s history and heritage.
Impact: This program seeks to create equitable access through online experiences. By focusing on virtual programming, the resulting tours will eliminate the geographical barriers to visiting these sites, providing anyone with access to the web with immersive experiences of two important park sites. This is particularly important for both parks as access to the physical parks remains a challenge due to closures from the fires as well as general inaccessibility of Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park. CyArk will additionally continue its ongoing collaboration with PORTS to further ensure the resulting tours and materials will support the educational goals of California State Parks by providing content that can be accessed anytime.
Redwood Parks Conservancy | Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Redwood National and State Parks | $9,999.00
Project: Forests for All: Connecting Underserved and Marginalized Communities to the Coast Redwood Forest
Through the Forests for All Project, this work will bridge the gap between the park’s adjacent communities and redwood forests by removing barriers to transportation, providing safe, welcoming recreational and educational opportunities for people of all backgrounds, abilities, and socioeconomic status. With support from community partners, Forests for All will conduct thorough, targeted outreach to identify the needs and values of these communities and explore best practices for creating inclusive outdoor experiences. By facilitating fun and meaningful outdoor excursions in the form of two ranger-led backpacking trips and four-day trip outings, engagement in the park will increase. Transportation solutions, food, and gear for all hiking and camping activities will be provided to support the registrants. Equity-centered interpretive programs, trainings, and mentorship opportunities will allow participants to learn about outdoor preparedness, wildlife safety, Leave No Trace principles, and wellness in nature.
Impact: Forests for All’s goal is to remove barriers keeping people from experiencing their neighboring redwood parks, especially for Latino and Indigenous residents living close to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and the rest of Redwood National and State Parks. Forests for All will build inclusive interpretive programming that is culturally relevant for targeted audiences with input from local partners. Small group trips with park and non-profit staff are designed to help new visitors feel welcome and to give participants tools and knowledge, making it easier for them to return on their own and develop a long-term relationship with the park. Park interpreters come with a variety of life experiences and backgrounds offering young program participants a chance to see themselves as park advocates and potentially as people with a future in park employment.
Challenging Colonialism in California Podcast | State Parks Throughout California | $10,000.00
Project: Challenging Colonialism Podcast
Challenging Colonialism is a podcast that centers Indigenous voices and perspectives. Indigenous communities have noted there is a long history of state agencies speaking for and imposing their beliefs on Indigenous Peoples and issues that relate to their community. Challenging Colonialism seeks to address this historic challenge by providing a platform for Indigenous community members and academics to express their concerns and views. The podcast explicitly focuses on Indigenous stories told by Indigenous voices.
Impact: This podcast will provide education and information to help park visitors better understand California’s long colonial history, and the hidden and overlooked histories and stories of Indigenous Californians. While new movements within California State Parks will help to provide things like land acknowledgements for park visitors, these efforts might stand as hollow words without a deeper understanding of the histories and contemporary issues facing Indigenous Californian communities. Challenging Colonialism will help to provide information and education for park visitors and the general public to better contextualize the ongoing efforts that California State Parks is making to highlight and acknowledge Indigenous communities.
Friends of Sutter’s Fort | Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park | $10,000.00
Project: Partnering with School Districts to Bring Title 1 Schools to Sutter'’s Fort for Overnight and Day-Long Programs
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park is currently undergoing fundamental changes in order to tell a more inclusive historical narrative in consultation with Indigenous peoples. This effort is part of California State Parks’ Reexamining Our Past Initiative. This work has been underway for several years, and a Draft Interpretive Master Plan has been published with public workshops underway. As a result of this comprehensive overhaul of the interpretive programs at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, more than 100,000 visitors each year will experience a more inclusive and historically accurate interpretive experience. In the Environmental Living Program (ELP), 3rd to 5th grade students spend a full 24-hours at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park participating in hands-on activities, cooking and baking all of their own food, and camping overnight within the interior walls of the fort. For many students, this is their first camping experience, and it is often their first time away from home overnight.
Impact: As California State Parks rolls out the new interpretive priorities for Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, programs are being realigned to tell a more accurate history in consultation with Indigenous Nations. This program not only breaks down financial barriers, but it also seeks to overcome barriers that prevent teachers from signing up for these programs like lack of time and struggles navigating complicated internal systems for getting field trips approved and transportation scheduled. In addition to breaking down barriers to participation, this model will also create a stronger partnership with local schools and create a new way to engage teachers at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park.
South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL)| South Yuba River State Park | $10,000.00
Project: Yuba River Ambassadors
Over the past decade, the River Ambassadors program and South Yuba River State Park (SYRSP) staff have witnessed an increase in the diversity of first-time river-goers. In particular, they have seen a rapid growth in Spanish-speaking visitors, which has led South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) and California State Parks to identify bilingual signage and bilingual River Captains as important additions to the program. Out-of-town and first-time visitors are likely unfamiliar with the safety issues surrounding this 39-mile stretch of river. New visitors, eager to set up camp stoves or portable grills, are often unaware of regulations prohibiting open-flame cooking or the dangers it poses to an extremely dry, difficult-to-access river canyon. Further, parking is limited, forcing cars on the road’s side, unintentionally blocking emergency access. If visitors’ first encounters with these regulations are with a citation, their experience is negative, and the Yuba River has lost the opportunity to be a community resource for those Californians. This is why the long-running River Ambassador Program, co-managed by SYRCL and California State Parks staff, continues to evolve to meet the need for a front-line service to educate visitors and improve park experience as well as public safety.
Impact: This program will help improve the visitor experience, lowering barriers to entry, and offering a welcoming and safe environment for river-goers, especially first-timers. This season, the program will recruit paid temporary bilingual River Captains who are able to bring multi-cultural competency to training and managing River Ambassador volunteers. River Captains and River Ambassadors will work to provide a welcoming experience for new park goers as well as create situational and safety awareness and promote park stewardship.
California State Parks | Empire Mine State Historic Park | $9,575.00
Project: Adventure Pass Interpretive Enhancements
California State Parks staff will hire a seasonal staff position, a brand new position that will be dedicated to serving Adventure Pass families and reaching additional fourth grade families. In partnership with Sierra Gold Parks Foundation, the Empire Mine State Historic Park Adventure Pass Interpreter will form a strategy to reach fourth grade families in the area and develop interpretive programs and materials to provide a rich experience when they visit Empire Mine State Historic Park. Strategies for outreach include special family-oriented interpretive materials, with Spanish translation, and outreach through area school districts and Nevada County Libraries (in partnership with the Bear Yuba Land Trust).
Impact: When the initial goals from the strategic plan are met, the intention is to secure funding to make this a long-term position serving Adventure Pass families specifically. By creating a long-term position to work with Sierra Gold Parks Foundation to develop programs, materials, and services that address barriers to visitation, Californians will have equitable access to the positive impact parks have on health, happiness, and quality of life.
Torrey Pines Conservancy | Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve | $10,000.00
Project: Replacing Two Drinking Water Fountain Fillers
At Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, one water filler will be placed in the Upper Reserve near the information desk and one near the restrooms in the South Beach parking lot.
Impact: The new water fillers will be ADA accessible, help reduce the use of single use plastics, as well as add value to all visitors' park experience as they offer free and clean drinking water.
MendoParks | Mendocino Headlands State Park, Jug Handle State Nature Reserve, Van Damme State Park, Russian Gulch State Park, Navarro River Redwoods State Park | $10,000.00
Project: Educational brochures
MendoParks will work closely with California State Parks and representatives from local tribes to update brochures for multiple parks. The current brochures include outdated and inaccurate content regarding environmental issues and local tribes. Indigenous stories have often been an after-thought in park interpretation. MendoParks will provide paid consultation for Indigenous Peoples to contribute information they deem appropriate for public sharing, as well as work with tribal members to identify photographs, and potentially commission artwork by contemporary Pomo artists to further illustrate content.
Impact: This project is working directly with local Indigenous tribes to tell their story of the parks. The relationships built through this project seeds future projects between MendoParks, California State Parks, and local Indigenous communities to further honor the stories that represent and reveal the wisdom, contributions, and experiences of the Indigenous people who have called California home since time immemorial. Through consultation with local tribes, they will create content for brochures and identify pro-Indigenous projects and programs within the parks. By building relationships with local tribes, they seek to support the Indigenous community’s access to parks in Mendocino County and build projects and programs based on feedback from local tribes. The project also serves visitors with updated park brochures and trail guides, including ADA content.
Amigos De Bolsa Chica | Bolsa Chica State Beach | $9,500.00
Project: Amigos de Bolsa Chica Volunteer Coordinator
The Volunteer Coordinator will be tasked with addressing Amigos de Bolsa Chica’s larger goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion by promoting all of the ways that anyone can be involved in environmental stewardship and find it personally rewarding. The Volunteer Coordinator will address community capacity building by creating ongoing strategies for outreach, recruitment, and retention of volunteers that the Amigos de Bolsa Chica currently does not have. The overarching goal, through the vehicle of the established volunteer Community Science program, is to generate greater diversity, equity, and inclusion of all members of the community in environmental stewardship activities.
Impact: Flow, which stands for Follow and Learn about the Ocean and Wetland, is an example of an opportunity for underserved and multi-cultural youth to have a rare and memorable connection with nature they are not likely to have experienced otherwise. Since FLOW began in 2013, it’s been clear that providing high quality informal science education opportunities for the community (from where the volunteers are drawn) and underserved students can make a lasting and positive impact on people’s lives. A paid position whose sole function is to focus on outreach, recruitment, and retention of volunteers in environmental stewardship activities is necessary to successfully create an atmosphere that demonstrates how individuals from diverse communities can feel safe and at home at Bolsa Chica State Beach.
Foundation for the Preservation of the Santa Susana Mountains (FPSSM) | Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park | $9,650.00
Project: 3rd Grade Interpretive Hike Program
This Interpretive Hike program introduces youth that live around Susana Pass State Historic Park to this one of a kind California treasure. Many have never been on a hike or been in a rural park. These hikes are approved by the school district, integrated into their 3rd grade curriculum of California history and Native American culture, and will include a two-mile hike. The hike will be led by trained Volunteer Hike Leaders who take many pauses to show and tell the children about the birds, plants, and other interesting encounters along the way.
Impact: This program provides the opportunity for youth to widen their horizons and opens doors to experiences and benefits of parks. The more education youth can receive about nature, conservation, and the environment in which they live, the better their decisions will be to protect these places.
Gold Discovery Park Association | Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park | $10,000.00
Project: Hands-On History Scholarship Program
This program will provide transportation and program access for up to 400 fourth-graders in the county. Gold Discovery Park Association offers four well established programs that meet curriculum requirements for fourth-graders learning about the Gold Rush and California History. Typically, the fourth-grade classes that are able to visit the park and pay for educational programs are from more affluent areas in California. Local participation pales in comparison, which is especially distressing given that the history these children are studying happened right here in their backyards. Gold Discovery Park Association will address this inequity by removing financial barriers, starting locally.
Impact: While the main focus of the scholarship fund is on providing equal access to educational programs, children will also benefit from being outside and exploring the majority of the park grounds. The program will instill a love and sense of ownership of local history and outdoor spaces. Gold Discovery Park Association will encourage stewardship of land and storytelling in younger generations.
Malibu Creek Docents | Malibu Creek State Park | $10,00.00
Project: Malibu Creek State Park Visitor Center Improvements
The project will refurbish the original peg and groove oak flooring and repair plaster walls and ceilings at the visitor center. Malibu Creek Docents will be working with California State Parks staff to qualify a contractor that is experienced in doing restoration work for historic buildings.
Impact: Many of the park visitors are multi-generational families with very young children and/or elderly grandparents. Although this project is primarily about preserving the history of the building, it is also about ensuring that all people who come to the Visitor Center have a safe experience. The repairs will remove any potential hazards for people with disabilities or limited mobility.
Napa Valley State Parks Association | Bothe-Napa Valley State Park | $10,00.00
Project: Southfork Trail Bridge Replacement and Trail Repair
The 2020 Glass Fire devastated many areas in the Napa Valley, including within the park boundaries of Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. There was significant damage, including the loss of the Southfork Trail wooden bridge in a section of the park that had devastating fire damage. The loss of this bridge, which connects the Richey Trail and the Coyote Peak Trail, cuts off a critical connection that offers access to a popular loop trail within the park. In addition, significant trail clearing needs to occur after damage from the Glass Fire. This funding helps purchase all raw materials to rebuild the bridge, provides necessary rented equipment for trail clearance, and offsets the staff cost for the Napa Open Space District.
Impact: Hiking in the state park provides affordable recreation opportunities for local families and visitors to the Napa Valley. In addition, these trails are used for local school groups to learn more about our natural heritage. As part of these education programs, the groups are taught about the Wappo Peoples and the early settlers to the Napa Valley. Bothe-Napa State Park has a rich history, and these trail hikes are an integral part of telling that history.
Friends of Trione-Annadel | Trione-Annadel State Park | $4,509.00
Project: All-terrain Wheelchair for Use in the Park
An all-terrain wheelchair will reduce barriers and expand access to the park by providing transportation that can handle the multi-use trails in the park. The all-terrain wheelchair will be either self-propelled or propelled by a helper.
Impact: The all-terrain wheelchair will provide transportation that will open up access to the multi-use trails at no cost, which will reduce barriers and expand access to Trione-Annadel State Park so that more park visitors with limited mobility have equitable access to the park. With the all-terrain wheelchair, users that need a wheelchair for mobility will be able to enjoy the positive impact the park has on health, happiness, and quality of life.
Portola and Castle Rock Foundation | Portola Redwoods State Park | $10,000.00
Project: Porch Renovation Project – Drinking Water Facilities
This project will provide drinking water to visitors and create a welcoming and accessible space, protect the environment, and maintain the historical look of California’s redwood state parks. There are three elements to this phase.
Impact: All phases of the Porch Renovation Project have included the requirement to make the space and furnishings accessible to a person who is disabled. The new benches and interpretive planter displays meet ADA guidelines, and the space has been reconfigured for better access for who are disabled. In the Drinking Water Facilities phase, the proposed new fountain and bottle filling station will be ADA-compliant and installed in an accessible location.
Mountain Parks Foundation | Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and Big Basin Redwoods State Parks | $10,000.00
Project: Redwood Rx - Program Research & Development
In this time of immense cultural and ecological shifts, there is an opportunity to embrace new possibilities for connecting people with the proven health benefits of interacting with the natural world. A growing body of research establishes a strong link between contact with nature and enhanced human wellness. Given the enormous potential benefits of nature experiences on enhancing human health and the health of our parks, Mountain Parks Foundation is partnering with California State Parks to create a nature-based wellness program offering participants a variety of opportunities to experience the health and wellness benefits of our redwoods state parks.
Impact: The Redwood Rx program will reduce barriers and expand access to the healing benefits found in parks leading to positive impacts on participants' health, happiness, and overall quality of life. The goal is to create experiential opportunities in nature that are accessible to a broad spectrum of people. In addition to serving the local community and regular park users, they plan to reach new communities from geographic areas, cultures, and demographic groups that typically underutilize parks.