On Tuesday, May 12 we came together as a parks community for our 18th annual Park Advocacy Day. While this year looked and felt different, it was still an impactful day for parks. Even though we had to make the difficult decision to not meet in-person and walk the halls of the capitol, it didn’t stop us from advocating for parks!
Over 160 advocates joined us for the General Assembly session in the morning via Zoom. Many of these park advocates have been coming to Park Advocacy Day year after year, along with new park leaders showing their support for parks.
We began by hearing from Rachel Norton, California State Parks Foundation’s Executive Director. She kicked off the morning and provided her vision for Park Advocacy Day and our future together within the current political environmental. She shared, “We advocate because we care deeply about the future of our parks. We are determined that California’s priceless natural and cultural heritage will not be lost to future generations.” To hear more about the movement of park advocates and how we can meet this moment for parks, read her thoughts on Park Advocacy Day.
Angela Barranco, California Natural Resources Agency Undersecretary joined us to share how Governor Newsom’s administration is responding to the pandemic and what the parks community can do to support parks during this challenging time. She focused on our collective wisdom to find solutions to the very real and pressing issues California is confronting. And on a more personal note, she said, “What has been amazing about becoming a mother during this incredibly historic time is how important the outdoors is. It underscores the importance of all this work, but also the ability for all of us to get out and take a walk and enjoy a little bit of nature during this challenging time.”
Holly Martinez, California State Parks Foundation’s Director of Programs and Advocacy closed the General Assembly with discussing the outlook for state parks, what we know today from the State Legislature and state budgeting process and emphasizing the need for advocates now more than ever. With a backdrop of a large state budget deficient and record unemployment claims, the California Legislature has recently returned from an extended recess and has begun tackling responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery. A reduced number of legislative bills continue to move forward through the legislative process, along with a revised legislative calendar. She added, “As California navigates reopening the state and residents continue to cope with the increased stress and uncertainty around COVID-19, parks must remain a resource that our residents can rely on.”
Holly ended the General Assembly with a call to action, “Facing one of the greatest public health and economic challenges of our generation, we must continue to protect and expand access to our state parks and that this work will take all of us.”
A Conversation with Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and fierce champion for our parks joined us for a conversation. He shared with us the shifting political landscape in California’s legislature, the impact of COVID-19 on our parks, and the important role parks can play throughout recovery. “It is our parks, our open spaces, that are allowing for people to relieve themselves from all the tension and stress that we are reading about, hearing about, or dealing with directly,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “We are seeing our parks being used now more than ever. It is good to see how beneficial these spaces are for our families today when we need the most.”
In addition, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia shared his vision and role of California’s state parks for Assembly Bill 3256, a proposed $6.98 billion climate resiliency bond that would go before voters for the November 2020 election that he is authoring. With COVID-19 changing the way the Legislature is looking at all policy, he said, “We are going to pivot, and look at how our investments in a climate resiliency concept, can lead to economic recovery and job creations within the context of our natural resources and these investments.”
Voices for Parks
While it was hard not to meet in person this year, our first virtual Park Advocacy Day allowed for Californians across the state to demonstrate their commitment to parks and raise their voices for parks.
A petition to urge legislators to them to take into consideration the critical role parks play in the lives of Californians was sign by over 1,700 advocates. We must work together to keep parks whole, using our voice to demonstrate parks are necessary and critical to the lives of all Californians. To read and sign the petition, visit here.
Across social media platforms we engaged advocates and legislators alike reaching over 15,000 people with posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. State Senator Ben Allen showed his support for California’s state parks by sharing memories of hiking with his family on Twitter, “I treasure the memories of magical days hiking the state parks of the Santa Monica Mountains as a boy with my dad. I still get up on the trails as much as I can with my own son... our parks have provided places of respite and reflection for so many generations of Californians.” Senator Allen is author to Senate Bill 45, a $5.51 billion climate resiliency bond that would put before voters in November 2020 moving forward through the legislative process.
A Path Forward
We are facing one of the greatest public health and economic challenges of our generation, and we know nature and parklands continue to serve as a lifeline for many in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This should give us all resolve – Californians have demonstrated that they believe in their parks, that they love their parks, and they will join us in standing up to protect them.
That’s why we are calling on Californians. California state parks have been there for us and now we must continue to be there for them.
Over the next few months, California State Parks Foundation will be dedicated to building a parks movement. Working with partners and Californians, we will make the case to legislators and the Governor that our parks matter now more than ever.
With your help, we can demonstrate the incredible value our parks provide, that they deserve sustainable funding, and that we must expand access to them, particularly for communities hardest-hit by COVID-19.
As Holly Martinez, Director of Programs and Advocacy said, “Today is about starting a conversation”. We know the work ahead continues and that we stand as a parks community ready to support and advocate for our parks.