Looking back at 2020 | Cal Parks

Looking back at 2020

Published: December 31, 2020

From Executive Director Rachel Norton

2021. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so happy for a New Year to roll around. With a new year on the horizon, I am thinking about what I am grateful for this past year. I’m grateful that my work family and my actual family are safe and healthy. Knowing this isn’t the case for everyone, I have cherished the close personal relationships I have more than ever this year. I’m grateful for the California State Parks Foundation community of volunteers, partners, members, and supporters who have been incredibly generous to our state parks this year. Despite the twists and turns of this unpredictable year, I am looking forward to vaccines and (eventually) a return to life that feels more normal.  

Recently on social media I saw that people were posting the first picture of 2020 taken from their phones. I looked back at mine and saw that I spent the first day of this year in a park, with family, not yet aware that parks would become, for me and for many others, crucial places of sanctuary and healing. I have spent a lot of 2020 in parks, taking in the physical and mental health benefits they provide to us all. Outdoor experiences will come full circle for me on December 31, 2020. I am planning on watching, the sunset on the beach with a small group of family members to toast the coming of a new year. 

Executive Director, Rachel Norton, with daughter.


Indeed, parks had a moment in 2020 due to the travel and socializing restrictions ushered in by the pandemic, and I’m deeply proud that California State Parks Foundation was able to contribute positively to that moment: 

  • In April, we granted $75,000 to ensure parks could address the immediate needs of COVID-19. Projects were able to be pivoted or maintained, like online learning, critical restoration, park safety, and programming;  

  • In May and June, we raised our voices to beat back proposed cuts to parks and restore funding to ensure that underserved youth could access the health and recreation benefits of parks; 

  • Later in June, we partnered with organizations to grant $100,000 in our Keeping Parks Whole Grant Round that supports activities resulting in adequate funding, staff positions remain filled, maintenance is not deferred, or park programs remain available; 

  • In September, after devastating fires up and down the state, we were able to donate $50,000 in emergency relief to parks and park staff, and announce another wildfire resiliency grant round for parks to prepare for future fire seasons; 

  • In October, we celebrated a historic win! After 15 years of fighting threats to San Onofre State Beach, the birthplace of Southern California’s surf culture and a sacred spot for the Acjachemen tribe, Governor Newsom signed AB 1426 into law, protecting the park forever.  

I’m certain that 2021 will, of course, bring new challenges and change. What 2020 has taught me, however, is that our community of park supporters will always meet those challenges with resolve, determination, and generosity. Thank you, and see you in the parks!