Looking back at 2021
From Executive Director, Rachel Norton
As 2021 comes to a close, we are looking back on the work we have accomplished over the last year on behalf of our parks and all Californians. While it has been another year of uncertainty and change, we are focused and certain about the continued need to support our parks. First, I want to extend a thank you to our members, funders, partners, volunteers, and advocates because without them we cannot be successful.
I am pleased to report that California State Parks Foundation had another impactful year in 2021, working to protect and preserve California’s state park system, for the benefit of all. I wanted to share with you some of the biggest victories in case you missed them this past year. Again, a thank you to everyone that makes this work possible, this work would not happen without the collaboration and innovation from all those we work with all year long to make parks exemplary.
WORKING WITH CALIFORNIANS TO USE THEIR VOICES AND ACTIONS FOR PARKS
Meeting the moment to create a successful Earth Day
Due to COVID-19, our in-person Earth Day Climate Action volunteer workdays looked a little different this year. We hosted five in-person workdays across California with a total of 123 volunteers, who picked up trash and cleared dead and invasive plants at those sites, removing fuel for devastating wildfires. We also hosted a DIY virtual climate action clean up, where kits were available to Californians across the state. Over 5,353 volunteers participated and collected over 1,300 bags of trash through this effort. Click here to learn more about the impact of our volunteer program.
Advocates raising their voices together for parks
In June, for our second all-virtual Park Advocacy Day, over 300 advocates joined us for a virtual webinar to learn more about legislative priorities for state parks, including speakers like Parks Director Armando Quintero and Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee Chair Eduardo Garcia. Many took action during our Park Advocacy Month, writing legislators and signing on to action alerts to push for park funding, climate investments, and other priorities.
WORKING WITH CALIFORNIA STATE PARK STAFF AND PARTNERS TO SEE CHANGE PARK BY PARK
Park improvements to an state urban park
For decades, Yosemite Slough, a part of Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, was used as a dumping ground. It has taken 20 years of hard work and community support, but today the park is again a haven for birds and wildlife, and designed to better adapt to the coming rise in sea levels. New park improvements completed in 2021 included the creation of a park entrance gate with park signage, a main parking lot with staging area, and an ADA pedestrian/bicyclist connection to the San Francisco Bay Trail. Installation of underground utilities under Griffith Street will bring potable water, fire protection, sanitary sewer, electricity, telecommunications, and outdoor lighting.
Addressing California wildfires
The devastating wildfires of 2020 burned over 4 million acres or 4% of the state, resulting in tragic loss of life and property. That same year, 29 California state park units had to be closed due to fire. In response to these horrifically destructive California wildfires in 2020, we were pleased to partner with state parks and park partner organizations with grants. These grants are helping restore fragile habitats and rebuild parks while helping parks become more resilient to climate change. The Wildfire Resiliency and Prevention Grant opportunity included grant funding that supports programs or projects in state parks in one or more of the following four categories: assessment, restoration, preparedness, and education. Throughout 2021 we’ve been working with parks and partners to execute and evaluate these grants, as we know the state is in uncharted territory, with a wildfire season that is becoming longer and more intense each year — we must continue our assessment, restoration, preparedness, and education. Learn about one of our grantees, Gold Country Avian Studies, who is measuring the impact of the fire on the Hermit Thrush population in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
WORKING WITH THE LEGISLATURE TO SEE CHANGE AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL, FOR ALL CALIFORIA
2021-22 budget is the largest ever for California State Parks
Thanks to an unprecedented surplus, the budget enacted for California State Parks — $1.76 billion — was the largest in its history. We worked with partners in the capitol to make sure this funding was in place for state parks in the May Revise, and finally the final budget. The budget investments included new pilot programs to increase access for families, kids, and low-income Californians (see below); a significant $185 million down payment on the park system’s estimated $1 billion deferred maintenance backlog; and investments in wildfire resilience, sea level rise, and other key priorities for the future.
New equitable access programs prioritized in state legislation
California State Parks Foundation, in partnership with California’s First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and many other partners, has been working for years to establish stronger access to parks through our Pathways to Parks initiative. In July, we were thrilled that Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that advances the state’s commitment to equitable access to California state parks, outcomes we have pushed for and helped champion for years. These two bills are:
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.
Senate Bill 129 legislation included $5.6 million to fund the new State Park Adventure Pass, as well as $3 million to establish the State Library Park Pass, a new two-year pilot program that allows library cardholders to check out state park passes and gain free day-use access to state parks.
There was so much incredible work that our community of supporters helped make possible in California state parks in 2021. I continue to be so grateful for all of you — and for the staff and board of California State Parks Foundation. I wish you all a very happy holiday season and look forward to another impactful year in 2022.
** Statistics are based on fiscal year and calendar year, depending on the program.