Earth Day reminds us that our state parks are incredible places where we can find spectacular natural beauty, spaces to learn, and innumerable mental and physical health benefits – a reality that Californians sheltering at home are aware of now more than ever.
Because of this, Earth Day has always been an important part of California State Parks Foundation’s history, starting in 1998.
But, during these challenging times and for the safety and wellbeing of Californians, many parks have closed to the public or are limiting visitors, significantly impacting revenue sources for these green sanctuaries.
While this year’s Earth Day looked a bit different, it still focused on improving these special places so that Californians may use them. Now is a critical time to continue investing in our green spaces, and the Earth Day 2020 effort is an example of what we can achieve together.
A 2020 shift to meet current park needs with original Earth Day grantees in light of COVID-19
California State Parks Foundation shifted resources and redirected $75,000 in funds to help address immediate needs in our parks. Grant funding will be distributed to 21 California state parks and partner groups stretching from north to south and serving both urban and rural families, with the goal of protecting and preserving these natural resources. Below is a summary of the projects and programs supported at this time.
Angel Island State Park | Angel Island Conservancy | $4,075.52
This grant will be used to purchase equipment for interpretive programs that are now being conducted through distance learning, items for the living history program, items for a hospital artifact exhibit, and replacement BBQs in Ayala Cove.
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park | Los Angeles Audubon Society | $6,000
This grant will be spent on native plants and supplies, as habitat restoration work must continue. Restoring these areas will keep hikers on trails and off sensitive habitats, decrease habitat fragmentation at the park, and provide continuous habitat to attract more species of wildlife. Native habitat conservation efforts also help in water conservation and wildfire prevention.
Candlestick Point State Recreation Area | Literacy for Environmental Justice | $5,000
This grant will be used to support physically distant green collar internships this spring. Interns will describe the public infrastructure plant work they are learning about and how the internships support open space improvements. This program works to increase cultural diversity and leadership in the environmental field while actively restoring urban spaces to be more resilient and ecologically diverse in the wake of impending sea level rise and climate change.
China Camp State Park | Friends of China Camp (nonprofit park operator) | $3,730
This grant will ensure the park is safe and maintained during this time. By stepping up staff, adding new trail signage for several trailhead locations, ensuring that bathrooms are cleaned, trash dumped, and historical structures are preserved.
Chino Hills State Park | Chino Hills Interpretive Association | $2,845
This grant will be used for interpretive signage at the two main park entrances (which are currently unmarked) and a special poppy sign for use during the super bloom season.
Half Moon Bay State Beach | Coastside State Parks Association | $4,500
This grant will be used to plan for future volunteer projects in a time where group size must be limited, volunteers must use social distancing practices, and sanitation is a priority. The park will be adding tools and supplies to accommodate those needs – like purchasing gloves that would be provided to volunteers and and providing hand washing stations and other sanitation.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park | Mountain Park Foundation | $2,450
This grant will go toward purchasing tools for future volunteer workdays, plus paint and supplies for repairing and improving the picnic restrooms. Projects will be executed by park staff and volunteers when it is safe to return.
Los Angeles State Historic Park | Los Angeles River State Park Partners | $5,000
This grant will support the Promotorx program, which encourages communal park use and stewardship through creating, organizing, and supporting relevant programs that focus on the park’s natural and cultural resources. It will help with planning and strategizing for the re-opening of state parks in the area.
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park | Gold Discovery Park Association | $3,300
This grant will help repair existing ADA trails and bring the trails back to ADA required standards. ADA trails provide park access for people with disabilities, especially people in wheelchairs or those who have difficulty walking on steep or uneven trails. Over time, trail degradation creates low spots and the below grade netting material becomes exposed. In addition, other trails will be repaired to improve similar erosion issues and improve standards of side sloping runoff.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park | Boosters of Old Town San Diego | $2,160
This grant will rehab the historic Estudillo Garden at this park, getting plants and seeds for the garden. There will be gardens planted around the newly rehabbed walkways and historic fountain. Additionally, the grant will help purchase wood and other items needed for rebuilding the historic raised garden beds.
Rio de Los Angeles State Park | Audubon Center at Debs Park | $4,000
This grant will go to maintaining the restoration site worked on by previous volunteers, allowing for the nursery stock to be replenished and have sufficient native plants for the planting season. It will also help with the safety of workers and future volunteers.
South Carlsbad State Beach (Tomato Fields) | Friends of Cardiff and Carlsbad State Beaches | $2,512
This grant will support digital public connection and distance learning for South Carlsbad State Beach. State park interpreters are bringing programs to the public using social media, PORTS (Zoom), and Facebook live. This is an opportunity for staff to develop and deliver programs centered on native California peoples, biodiversity and watersheds. These digital tools will continue to be critical for reaching a wider audience who may be unable to visit the parks.
Trinidad State Beach | Redwood Parks Conservancy | $2,500
This grant will help to conduct habitat restoration at Trinidad State Beach. California State Parks staff will spend multiple days removing invasive non-native plants. It will also help the park build the volunteer program by purchasing needed equipment.
Supporting nonprofit park operators as they navigate closures due to COVID-19
Park nonprofit operators are not able to collect user fees while parks are closed, but must still pay for park maintenance and provide some facilities. While these parks were not part of the original Earth Day celebration plan, we pivoted to address the urgent needs they are facing due to COVID-19.
Jack London State Historic Park | Jack London Park Partners | $4,000
This grant will address the park’s overwhelming fire hazards, including dangerously overgrown eucalyptus groves, space around the park’s historic structures, backcountry trails, and clearing understory to maintain vital emergency access/exit roads. This must all be done while maintaining historical integrity at this well-preserved historic park.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park | Sonoma Ecology Center | $4,000
This grant will help keep staff at the park maintain trails and facilities, and plan and prepare for reopening. A reopening process may include more stringent cleaning and operational protocols and reduced visitor capacity. A robust plan will be in place to welcome the public back to this needed outdoor space.
Austin Creek State Recreation Area | Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods | $4,000
This grant will be used for canvasing trails to make sure they are clear before parks reopen again. In addition, a surveillance camera will be installed at Pond Farm to provide extra protection for this cultural site.
Supporting additional parks due to COVID-19
Additional parks have flagged urgent parks needs such as moving programs online for the public, to making sure facilities are improved and excellent when the public can return to the parks.
Leo Carrillo State Park | California State Parks | $3,000
This grant will help purchase the equipment to implement distance learning programs in order to continue educating the public about this beautiful park and its resources.
Crystal Cove State Park | Crystal Cove Conservancy | $3,000
This grant will go to the most immediate need right now: moving Crystal Cove's education and interpretive programs online. Staff are working to adapt programs and move them online for students and the public.
El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park | Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation | $3,000
The grant will support staff who are developing new digital content: video lessons on early California dance and music, elements of the spring living history programs, virtual presentations of recent preservation projects, and other virtual presentations about historical collections.
Carpenteria State Beach | California State Parks | $3,000
This grant will support essential maintenance projects, focusing on replacing restroom hardware. This project is critical to ensure people have a positive experience as campers and park visitors.
Washoe Meadows State Park, Emerald Bay State Park, D.L. Bliss State Park, Ed Z’Berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, Donner Memorial State Park, Tahoe State Recreation Area, Kings Beach State Recreation Area | Sierra Parks Foundation | $4,000
This grant supported the digital engagement activities forEarth Day and will support future interpretive activities for conservation. It will also help Below the Blue: Lake Tahoe’s litter crisis effort to raise awareness ofgarbage in Lake Tahoe and its implications on ecosystem health, as well as on the people who live and recreate in the Tahoe Basin.