California State Parks Foundation Partners with REI Co-op to Support Increased Access to State Parks | Cal Parks
Published: February 3, 2023

California State Library Parks Pass now comes with additional gear to make visiting parks a positive and meaningful experience 

California State Parks Foundation is partnering with REI Co-op to expand on the already successful California State Library Parks Pass program. REI has provided 500 backpacks that will be available to library card holders that check out a California State Library Parks Pass. California State Parks Foundation is supporting this program by supplying additional education and experience materials for the backpacks that can be checked out with the pass, available at these locations. The backpacks will contain binoculars, California tree and wildflower guides, California wildlife guides, a hand lens, a compass, and more. These additional items will help visitors navigate and learn about the parks they visit, and the backpacks full of gear will be returned along with the pass for the next visitor to enjoy.

"At REI, we believe that a life outside is a life well lived and we are thrilled to support the California State Library Parks Pass program to help enable more Californians to get outside and enjoy our beautiful state parks," said Haley Caruso, REI's Local Brand and Impact Manager.

California State Parks and the California State Library collaborated to improve outdoor access for all. This program works to advance safe and equitable access to state parks and open spaces. By removing the economic barrier of vehicle day-use fees and connecting communities with their libraries, more people will be able to enjoy the benefits of parks.

California libraries have led to healthy minds for Californians, and now they are opening doors to help cultivate healthy minds, bodies, and hearts. We’ve seen an overwhelming amount of interest in this program, and we intend to provide the advocacy and support needed to keep it sustainable,” said Rachel Norton, Executive Director of California State Parks Foundation. 

As part of a three-year pilot program, each library jurisdiction originally received at least three California State Library Parks Pass hangtags per branch, including mobile libraries, for checkout by library patrons. Now, the program will add an additional 28,000 passes across California to increase the number of passes available at libraries. Library patrons can check out a pass for free for the allotted number of days allowed by their library. The pass allows free vehicle day-use entry at more than 200 participating state parks. Pass guidelines and local library branches can be found at

The 2021-22 State Budget included initiatives to advance equitable access to state parks and open spaces for all park visitors. The budget included a $9.1 million one-time General Fund investment to launch pilot programs to expand parks pass distribution. With the leadership of the governor and California’s first partner, California is able to create innovative access programs for children, families, and others to explore state parks. 

Public outdoor spaces belong to all Californians for recreation, exploration and relaxation,” said State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “Thanks to the Newsom Administration, Natural Resources Agency, state legislators, and state departments, for making California a healthier state by providing free state park passes to Californians.”

California State Parks Foundation has partnered with California State Parks to measure the success of the pass, to ultimately advocate for it to be a permanent program. By analyzing a survey with over 1,000 responses, we are able to understand the initial successes of the program. 

  • Prior to the introduction of the California State Library Parks Pass, 43% of respondents visited California state parks and beaches 1-2 times a year. 

  • For those that had never visited a California state park, 61% said the reason was the cost of the day-use fees. 

  • Now, thanks to the pass, 35% of respondents anticipate visiting California state parks 3-6 times a year and 44% of respondents anticipate visiting California state parks 7+ times a year. 

  • After checking out the parks pass, 80% of respondents are more likely to use other library resources and services. 

These initial results are promising, and California State Parks Foundation is excited for more Californians to engage with their parks and libraries.  

I really enjoyed taking part in the new program. I felt it opened up a very big door for families that have never visited any of the parks…it cuts back on a lot of time and cost…I will still be definitely participating in the library parks pass program, for as long as they will have it. It's a wonderful idea, and I hope it continues,” said one participant of the program. 
I have really enjoyed getting outside and visiting the parks in Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, and the Bay Area. Thanks to this free program, I saved money and had fun. As a single mom, I really appreciate exploring the state, while staying within my budget,” said another participant. 

To learn more about work to increase access and improve park experiences for visitors, visit the California State Parks Foundation website at  

To learn about California State Parks’ Outdoors for All Initiative, visit