ICYMI: Park Advocate Webinar on Key Bills for Parks in 2023 | Cal Parks

ICYMI: Park Advocate Webinar on Key Bills for Parks in 2023

Published: March 22, 2023

At our most recent Park Advocate Webinar on March 17, California State Parks Foundation laid out the priority and sponsored bills we’ll focus on in the 2023 legislative session. 

If you couldn’t join us live for the event, you can watch the recording here

At the webinar, we heard from the following experts: 


Abigail Mighell

Abigail Mighell

is a political consultant and lobbyist representing California State Parks Foundation in Sacramento. With a background in conservation and climate policy, she develops strategies to effectively advocate for parks in the state legislative and budget processes. 

Keith Cialino

Keith Cialino

is a Principal Consultant with the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee, and has worked in the Legislature since 2018. Keith holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and a B.A. in Environmental Science from La Salle University in Philadelphia.  

Randy W. Widera

Randy W. Widera

is the Director of Philanthropy at California State Parks Foundation. He brings to the organization his deep knowledge of state parks from a 30+ year career focused on connecting Californians with their natural and cultural heritage.  

Sonia Díaz

Sonia Díaz

is the Public Policy Manager for Outdoor Outreach. Sonia leads Outdoor Outreach's policy and advocacy program, including Outdoor Voices, a youth-centered civic engagement program to help youth advance park access and environmental justice in their communities.   

This year, California State Parks Foundation is prioritizing 12 bills from across the Senate and Assembly and sponsoring one alongside Outdoor Outreach. California State Parks Foundation Executive Director Rachel Norton explained, “Bill sponsors in California are the originator of a legislative idea if an idea doesn't originate with the legislator who authors the bill. Priority legislation can be sponsored legislation, or just legislation we're particularly prioritizing for action and support this session.” 

Abigail Mighell outlined all 12 priority bills — listed below and on our website — but the majority of time was spent exploring our sponsored legislation, Assembly Bill 1150. The bill, which originated in the State Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, would establish a community access pilot program for nonprofits that provide programs and services for communities with barriers to accessing state parks and beaches.  

Sonia Díaz of Outdoor Outreach explained, “Many of our youth come from communities that don't have access or the means to enjoy these spaces that they're experiencing and many times they're experiencing these spaces with us for the very first time.” Outdoor Outreach helps youth create meaningful connections to nature by providing the equipment, instruction, and transportation needed. They run 600 outings per year from surfing at the beach to overnight camping in the mountains. 

“This bill arose first out of a local problem we had been struggling with for the past nine years trying to work with California State Parks to allow us to run regular ongoing programs at their beach and park units,” Díaz said. “For example, we currently have to take out a special event permit to take to take just 12 of our youth to enjoy a day at the beach in addition to paying other fees like parking [which] adds up” and adds another layer of bureaucracy and an additional barrier to struggle with. 

Díaz explained that when Outdoor Outreach and other organizations facing similar situations reached out to California State Parks about this issue, they found that the government organization is not currently authorized to enter agreements or waive fees like this for nonprofits. This meant the best avenue for this was to create a bill that would allow them to do so.  

That’s when the State Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife got involved. Dr. Keith Cialino, who serves as the committee’s Principal Consultant, explained that AB 1150 was introduced directly by the committee, rather than by an individual Assemblymember. Each committee can introduce up to five committee bills a year. Generally, they’re reserved for non-controversial changes to law, and in this case, all 15 members of the committee were enthusiastic and signed on as authors quickly in a unanimous effort to get this bill passed. 

“It is unanimous, it's bipartisan, it's really a great thing.” Dr. Cialino said. “We really want to remove those barriers to getting organizations into the parks and bringing out, particularly youth, but anyone who has lacked access in the past into our state parks.” 

There will be a hearing about AB 1150 on March 28 at 9AM, so you can tune in online and listen to the discussion on the floor: https://awpw.assembly.ca.gov/

California State Parks Foundation got involved because it was a clear example of a way to increase equitable access to state parks. As Díaz put it, “It's an issue about equity, really, because if you imagine if we didn't have this program, [and you’re] being turned away each time you visit a park, it really creates a negative experience especially for someone who already struggles with the feeling of feeling unwelcome because they lack the financial means resources or don't live in a community with resources to experience these spaces on a regular basis.” 

Want to help get this bill passed? Sign our petition here: https://act.calparks.org/a/ab1150  



Senate Bill 272 (Laird) 

  • Would require local governments within the coastal zone to develop and implement sea level rise planning and adaptation plans in the next ten years. California State Parks Foundation supported a very similar version of this bill in 2022 that was vetoed by Governor Newsom.   


Assembly Bill 1150 (Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife) – SPONSORED BILL ​ 

Partner with Outdoor Outreach 

  • Current law requires the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to impose Special Event fees and regulations, even on nonprofits that provide crucial access to underrepresented communities. ​ 

  • AB 1150 would allow DPR to reduce barriers to access by partnering with nonprofits to reduce or eliminate permit fees and provide in-kind support services. 

  • Would establish a community access pilot program for nonprofits that provide programs and services for communities with barriers to accessing state parks and beaches.  

Assembly Bill 618 (Bauer-Kahan) 

  • Would make the California State Park camping reservation system more equitable by requiring a credit be offered for reservations canceled within seven calendar days of reservation start date and implement a lottery system for campsites at up to five of the most popular parks.   

Assembly Bill 401 (Mathis) 

  • Would expand California State Park Adventure Pass by granting free day-use access to every state park for 4th graders and their families. Currently the program allows 4th graders and their families to access 19 state parks.   


Assembly Bill 1567 (Garcia) and SB 867 (Allen)  

  • Would pass a statewide general obligation bond to support natural resources and parks projects and backfill Governor Newsom’s proposed budget cuts. 


Senate Bill 668 (Dodd) 

  • Would indefinitely authorize the California Department of Parks and Recreation to enter into operating agreements with a qualified nonprofit organization. The current legislation allowing this is set to expire in 2024, and this bill would establish it for good, protecting organizations like Friends of China Camp and others who keep parks open. 

Assembly Bill 411 (Bennett) 

  • Would improve trails by establishing funding for recreational trail improvements grants. This bill did not pass last year but is currently being rapidly amended in the legislature for 2023. 


Assembly Bill 1284 (Ramos) 

  • Would authorize the California Natural Resources Agency to enter into co-governance and management agreements with federally recognized Native nations. 


Assembly Bill 1041 (Ramos) 

  • Would prohibit uprooting, removing, or harvesting white sage from state or local public lands, which is an important herb to many Indigenous peoples. 

Senate Bill 732 (Menjivar) 

  • Would establish the Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) as the official state bat. 

Assembly Bill 261 (Kalra) 

  • Would establish the California golden chanterelle (Cantharellus californicus) as the official state mushroom. 

To learn more about the bills California State Parks Foundation is prioritizing in the 2023 legislative session, visit https://www.calparks.org/legislative-agenda

Check out the recording of the full event here to hear directly from each of our panelists.