It’s here: The California State Park Adventure Pass | Cal Parks

It’s here: The California State Park Adventure Pass

Published: October 13, 2021

It all started with a dream to get more youth out in California state parks. 

All of the work we do at California State Parks Foundation has a through-line – and our Pathways to Parks initiative is no exception. Launched in collaboration with California’s First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, our Pathways to Parks initiative introduces and advocates for solutions that increase equitable access to California state parks.  

Ultimately, Pathways to Parks helped lead to the creation of the California State Park Adventure Pass, which gives California fourth graders and their families a chance to access and explore parks throughout the state. But it didn’t just happen overnight! 

The process: we learn, we educate, we activate, and we influence.   

This through-line extends and amplifies our in-the-field learnings, model programs, and innovative solutions to ultimately influence policy and funding decisions in Sacramento and address the critical needs of our state park system, for the benefit of all. 

LEARN: We worked with a team of researchers from the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA to learn more about how state parks can improve the lives of children while fostering the next generation of park stewards. See the full report and interactive map to learn more. 

EDUCATE: We held a Policy Forum in 2019 and 2020 to bring together a cross-section of state leaders and advocates to discuss the status of children’s health in California and develop solutions to leverage California’s state parks as a tool to improve youth health.  

We hosted a discussion with California's First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and explored solutions for access to the outdoors.  

ACTIVATE: We hosted a listening tour to engage the First Partner in our work with grantees, visiting California state parks, meeting with partners, and learning more about impactful programming working to improve the health and wellness of California’s youth.  

We held several grantmaking cycles, including Increasing Youth Access to State Parks. We chose to fund programs that were unique, highly impactful, and focused on connecting underserved youth to nature and nature-based experiences. One of our grantees was Bay Area Wilderness Training, who helped us evaluate scalable program models to impactfully engage youth in state parks experiences that lead to measurable health and wellness outcomes. 

We held our annual Park Advocacy Day virtually in 2021. While we weren’t able to be together in person and walk the halls of the capitol, California State Parks Foundation put together tools and resources to advocate on budget items and legislation that increased access to California state parks. 

INFLUENCE: We celebrated the 2021-22 state budget wins for park access, a first legislative step in getting programs set up for youth to access California state parks. 

We had a major win for park access when Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that advances the state’s commitment to equitable access to California state parks.   

To see the full timeline, and all the important milestones of the Pathways to Parks campaign, view our timeline here

Where we are now: The California State Park Adventure Pass 

California’s budget and legislative wins have transformed into programs youth can use right now to access California state parks.  

Assembly Bill 148 established the California State Park Adventure Pass, a three-year pilot program that waives day-use entrance fees to 19 state parks for fourth graders and their families for a full year. The governor also signed Senate Bill 129, legislation that includes $5.6 million to fund the new State Park Adventure Pass as well as $3 million to establish the State Library Park Pass Program, a new two-year pilot program to provide state park passes to libraries across the state that may be checked out by library patrons to gain free day-use access to state parks. The library program is anticipated for later this fall. 

California was able to create, for the very first time, innovative access programs for children and families to explore state parks. More diverse communities will have the opportunity to become part of California’s landscape, enjoy the physical and mental benefits of connecting with nature, and be inspired to take care of these treasured places for future generations. 

Now, fourth graders and their families can apply for a free California State Parks Adventure Pass. The pass will give them the opportunity to explore 19 select state parks free for a full year. 

Although we have achieved a huge win for access this year, the fight for equitable access outdoors is not over. We hope to see these access pilot programs be expanded to include all 280 California state parks. We hope you will continue to work with us to make sure ALL Californians have access to the wellness benefits of our state parks. Follow us at calparks on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for real-time updates on how you can help. Also, be sure to sign up for our email lists for monthly updates on how you can advocate for equitable access.