Looking back on 2022 | Cal Parks

Looking back on 2022

Published: December 20, 2022

From Executive Director, Rachel Norton 

The end of the year is always one of my favorite times. I love taking the opportunity to look back on the past 12 months, celebrating the high points, and determining what, if anything, can be learned.  

At California State Parks Foundation, there were a lot of great moments in 2022 — moments when we had tremendous impact in our work to protect and preserve state parks. Of course, there were also a few times when things didn’t go the way we hoped. For those, there’s always next year, and our determination to rise up for the California state park system. I’d like to share a few of the most important moments with you.


Our work with the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the California State Library on the State Park Library Pass program is a definite high point. This program, created in 2021 as a direct result of our Pathways to Parks initiative, places state park passes in every public library in California. It has been such a runaway success that the Governor significantly increased the scope of the program earlier this year, adding more passes for library patrons to check out. We are helping to market and evaluate the program by administering surveys and giveaways to encourage people who check out a pass to let us know about their experiences. In 2023 we will be sharing some exciting news about additional ways we are supporting this wonderful program to connect everyone across California with their state park system. Stay tuned!  


California state parks are crucial winter habitats for western monarch butterflies. In recent years, annual counts of this well-loved and iconic pollinator have faced plummeting populations due to climate change, habitat loss, and other threats like pesticides. In the 1980s, an estimated 4.5 million butterflies migrated to the coast annually. In 2020, volunteers counted less than 2,000 monarchs — that's less than 0.01% of the historic size. While the 2021 and 2022 counts were overwhelmingly positive, the population has still fallen from historic numbers. 

In 2022, we took action, funding projects and hosting volunteer days to restore western monarch habitat in state parks. We also championed AB 2146 (Bauer-Kahn), legislation that would have limited neonicotinoid pesticides, which are harmful to pollinators like bees and butterflies. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by Governor Newsom, who cited ongoing regulation updates by the state government as a reason. We are watching regulatory changes and continue to champion legislative efforts to protect western monarchs in California’s state parks. We will also fund more habitat restoration projects in 2023. If you would like to learn more about threats to western monarchs and ways you can help protect them, watch our webinar “An Ideal Home for Monarchs,” recorded in November.  


California’s state park system represents more than 1.5 million acres of the state. As we watch our climate change today and anticipate even more change in coming decades, California State Parks Foundation is taking action to ensure that our state park system is as resilient as it can possibly be from the impacts of extreme heat, sea level rise, mega-storms, drought, and wildfires. 

In recent years, Californians have experienced the worst wildfires on record. To combat this, we’ve been working to protect and restore state parks. Through our Building Climate Resilient Parks grant round, we granted over $111,000 in funding to build climate-resilient parks and communities. We’ve been working with park partners to assess threats, develop proactive strategies, actively restore resilient habitats, boost preparedness, and support education to protect these vital spaces and limit the damage caused in state parks. We also raised additional funds to grant wildfire resiliency and prevention programs that will be released in January 2023. 


After two years of virtual advocacy days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were back in person again for Park Advocacy Day in May! Due to eye-popping budget surpluses in 2020-21 and 2021-22, the California Department of Parks and Recreation received healthy amounts in state funding. 

We were heartened last year when state parks received $185 million to fund deferred maintenance but disappointed that the system did not receive additional deferred maintenance funding in the 2022-23 budget. The California state park system has a large backlog of projects that must be addressed to keep the system in good condition to provide visitors with a welcoming and high-quality experience. This backlog has persisted and grown over decades because of inconsistent funding. Regular maintenance — things like fixing leaky roofs, re-paving roads, and maintaining trails and campsites — is crucial.  

It’s not possible to address the entire backlog in any one year. These projects require scoping, permitting, and construction management. Nor is it possible to eliminate the backlog entirely, because in a system as large and complex as this one, there will always be assets that break or need attention. We will continue to urge the state to make sustained efforts to fund needed maintenance for the state park system and will continue to call for consistent and robust funding for deferred maintenance.  

As the year winds down, I have so much gratitude for everyone who has donated, volunteered, signed a petition, or just simply found a moment to enjoy a California state park this past year. Thank you! These places matter, your engagement matters, and together we will continue to ensure that parks are accessible, welcoming, and well-maintained for future generations. I wish you and yours a healthy, happy, and restful holiday season. Until next year!  




P.S. Looking to kick off the New Year with a healthy dose of fresh air? On January 1, California State Parks invites you to enjoy the wonders of state parks with an annual First Day Hike! With over 50 state parks participating in this national effort to encourage individuals and families to experience the outdoors with a seasoned guide, there's a space for everyone to explore! Learn more at parks.ca.gov/FirstDayHikes2023.