On May 14, Governor Gavin Newsom released his revised budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021. Contrary to what we feared a year ago, California’s economy has roared back to life.
Overall, the Governor is predicting a $76 billion surplus on top of $25 billion in federal COVID relief funds — $100 billion in all to invest in programs and services that serve, protect, and nurture Californians and the beautiful, diverse place we call home.
What does this mean for state parks? Well, the news is generally very good. The Natural Resources Agency, the state agency that oversees the Department of Parks and Recreation, is slated to receive $11.4 billion for programs to conserve, restore, and enhance the natural, historical, and cultural resources of California. In that proposal, there are significant investments in our top priorities for state parks. Learn more about these investments below.
It’s well-known among park lovers that the state park system has a large deferred maintenance backlog – meaning state park infrastructure like buildings, trails, campsites, and other amenities don’t get repairs as quickly as they should. California State Parks leadership puts the value of necessary maintenance and repairs at around $1 billion. In January, the Governor proposed spending $20 million to reduce this backlog; last week he revised the budget ask upwards to $185 million. This increase will cover cottage rehabilitation at Crystal Cove State Park, lighthouse restoration at Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park, and many more investments to improve visitor experience and care for the many irreplaceable assets of the state park system.
Expanding access to parks
All Californians should be able to access the inspiring beauty and healing benefits of parks. California State Parks Foundation believes that connecting Californians to their state park system, reducing financial barriers to visiting state parks, and funding transportation to parks will encourage more people to visit time after time, and ultimately inspire more champions for the state park system. So, we are thrilled that the Governor’s May Revise contains proposals to support outdoor access for all Californians, including:
$108 million to support AB 209’s Outdoor Equity Grants Program and expand existing programs linking state parks with K-12 public schools.
$9 million to launch a pilot program to expand park pass distribution, especially for youth in disadvantaged communities, including a “California State Park Adventure” program for fourth graders and new statewide partnerships with the California State Library and Department of Social Services. These pilot programs were championed by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who has worked closely with California State Parks Foundation on our Pathways to Parks youth access initiative.
Building climate resilient parks
In 2020, wildfires ravaged California, burning 115,000 acres across 23 state park units. Governor Newsom has proposed $217 million in spending for fire restoration projects, including planning, removal of post-fire hazards like dead trees, and rebuilding parks that burned – including Big Basin Redwoods State Parks. As every Californian knows, fire season is now an annual occurrence. These dollars are crucial for recovery and resilience in this new normal.
In January, Governor Newsom proposed $12.6 million for acquisitions to increase access to existing state parks and add additional acres to the state park system. Last May, he also proposed $5 million for the current fiscal year to acquire a new state park. Acquiring new lands for public access and conservation is unquestionably good. However, some of the most important lands targeted for conservation won’t immediately increase access to nature for most Californians. California State Parks Foundation advocates for a balanced approach to acquisition – targeting lands near population areas that will also protect wildlife and nature. This year, we are supporting SB 266 (Newman), which would expand Chino Hills State Park. We’re looking forward to increasing our understanding on the Governor’s specific priorities for acquisition in the coming weeks.
On the whole, however, we are thrilled to see the Governor and First Partner’s commitment to funding accessible, welcoming, and resilient state parks in California. As the state budget process now moves to the Legislature, we will continue to keep you informed on developments and opportunities to make your voice heard. Under state law, the Legislature must send the Governor a budget by June 15. The 2021-22 fiscal year begins July 1.
We are thrilled to see the Governor and First Partner’s commitment to funding accessible, welcoming, and resilient state parks in California. As the state budget process now moves to the Legislature, we will continue to keep you informed on developments and opportunities to make your voice heard. Under state law, the Legislature must send the Governor a budget by June 15. The 2021-22 fiscal year begins July 1.