“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.”