When you think of California’s incredible state parks, you probably think about special places you love – beaches, deserts, redwood forests, lakes and rivers, as well as so many historical and cultural treasures. I think about these special places, too, but I also think about the incredible partner organizations – many staffed only by volunteers – that support and nurture them. Last month I had the opportunity to spend a day with representatives of almost 50 organizations that do great work in our state parks at our annual Park Partner Summit. When we connect partner organizations and work towards shared priorities, we mobilize and strengthen the state park movement. This annual convening is a chance for us to connect and collaborate with like-minded partners – and to facilitate trainings and the sharing of tools and strategies to help build their organizational effectiveness. This year, park partners worked with consultants at Department of Here to learn to tell compelling stories about their work as passionate advocates on behalf of California’s state parks. We also made sure attendees got lots of time to talk and share ideas and resources, because we know that being a part of a community of park supporters makes every organization stronger, including ours. In our vision for the future, every one of our 280 state parks is surrounded by a community of support, because great parks really need great partners like the ones at our summit. Through our work with partners, we focus on three key values:
Photo courtesy of Mendocino Woodlands Camp Association[/caption] State parks belong to everyone. They must remain open and accessible, today and for generations to come – and educating the public about the experiences available in parks helps build the engagement and support they need. For example, California State Parks Foundation provided funding to Mendocino Outdoor Science School, a program of the nonprofit Mendocino Woodlands Camp Association. During weeklong overnight trips, students from all kinds of schools across Northern California experience and care for nature through discovery-based learning.
Photo courtesy of Outdoor Outreach[/caption] High-quality outreach and interpretation programs are essential to attracting new visitors and building familiarity and trust between the community and their state parks. Environmental education nonprofit Outdoor Outreach used their California State Park Foundation grant to expand their work outside of their home-base in San Diego for the first time. Three overnight camping trips to Chino Hills State Park provided first-time park experiences and a chance to connect away outside of school for 24 youth from high-poverty backgrounds.
Photo courtesy Clockshop[/caption] Local communities must see themselves reflected in the activities and programs offered in their parks, and feel warmly welcomed to participate. In Los Angeles, multidisciplinary arts organization Clockshop used the grant we awarded them for family field days at The Bowtie Project, a partnership between Clockshop and the Department of Parks and Recreation designed to create new conversations about art, politics and public space along the Los Angeles River. By supporting California State Parks Foundation, you help support these incredible state park champions and their work to make our parks excellent, accessible and relevant to all Californians. We are grateful for your support – our partners are too!