How to build climate resilient parks: What we learned from our 2022 Building Climate Resilient Parks grantees | Cal Parks
Published: June 7, 2023

California State Parks Foundation is investing in key solutions to build a climate resilient state park system. Our 2022 Building Climate Resilient Parks grant round was an excellent opportunity to fund important climate projects and learn more about the best ways to increase state parks’ climate resilience. Many of our grantees focused on making parks more resilient to wildfires, which are happening more often and becoming more severe as the climate becomes warmer and drier. A major takeaway from these projects is the importance of habitat restoration because native plants are less susceptible to fire. By working with park partners to support these solutions, California State Parks Foundation will continue to fight for climate resilient state parks. Here are three examples of how grantees increased climate resilience in California state parks.

California Native Plant Society | $9,995.90 

The California Native Plant Society studied how plants in six state parks have been impacted by wildfire. Funding this project will help park managers protect different habitats from wildfire and increase climate resilience in state parks. The six California state parks were: 

  • Henry Coe State Park 
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park 
  • Henry Cowell State Park 
  • Butano State Park 
  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park 
  • Limekiln State Park 

These parks were impacted by the CZU wildfire complex, the SCU wildfire complex, the Dolan fire, or the Colorado Canyon fire.  

The California Native Plant Society found that some habitats experienced more severe wildfires than others, but that resilient native plants were able to recover. For example, chaparral and oak woodlands in Henry Coe State Park had the most severe fires, but these native plants resprouted afterward. In fact, the only significant impact was that some non-native plants also grew at several sites, which could increase the risk of another wildfire because non-native plants are more prone to fire than native plants. Knowing this information, park managers can plan to give extra attention to at-risk areas and be sure to remove potentially dangerous non-native plants. These management plans will increase state parks’ climate resilience as wildfires become more common and more severe. 

Climate Change and Climate Resilience Education 

Nature Nexus Institute | $10,000.00 

Nature Nexus Institute continued to engage young people in the climate fight through their Climate Action Youth Network. Funding this program gave local students the chance to learn about the impacts of climate change and how they can help make state parks more climate resilient. Over 60 high school students went to weekly workshops and spent time outdoors restoring habitat in Baldwin Hills Scenic Overview State Park and Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. Students learned about native plants and wildlife, the importance of biodiversity, and other environmental and climate issues. They also grew and planted hundreds of native plants to support a healthy native ecosystem that is more resilient to climate change. 

 College students who had already completed the program led many of these events. Most students in the program were from marginalized neighborhoods near the parks, which are disproportionately affected by climate change.  These communities have less resources and support to adapt to climate change due to discriminatory policies and economic and social inequalities. The California Action Youth Network educates students so they know that they also have a say and can make a difference in the climate fight. Because of this work, some students in the program are now considering jobs working with nature and the environment. With the support of California State Parks Foundation, Nature Nexus Institute has inspired a new group of young partners to help create climate resilient state parks. 

Preserving Native Habitat in the Face of Climate Change 

California State Parks, Angeles District Natural Resource Program | $9,964.00 

California State Parks restored three acres of coastal bluff scrub at Leo Carrillo State Beach. Most scrub plants were killed in the 2018 Woolsey Fire and then non-native species invaded the area. The funded work made the beach more climate resilient because native scrub plants decrease the chance of another wildfire compared to non-native plants. In addition, sea level rise is speeding up the erosion of cliffs where this habitat is found. By removing three acres of invasive plants, California State Parks made room for native scrub plants to regrow and create more of this valuable habitat. 

Leo Carrillo State Beach is one of the best remaining examples of highly-threatened coastal bluff scrub habitat, and California State Parks Foundation was proud to support this important conservation work. Though the project was only recently completed, park staff has already seen signs of their success. Native plants have begun to regrow now that they are not crowded by invasive species, and ample rainfall last year will help them continue to thrive. Incredibly, native plant seeds that survived the 2018 fire and were able to resprout after it rained! This information will help other park managers learn how to preserve and restore coastal bluff scrub habitat in their parks. 


Climate change is affecting all of California's state parks. California State Parks Foundation is responding by taking decisive action with innovative partners like the ones mentioned here to protect fragile habitats and give state parks tools to thrive now and for generations to come. Every donation will help our parks become resilient. Give today!