Justice, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity | Cal Parks

At California State Parks Foundation, our mission is to protect and preserve the California state park system, for the benefit of all. We believe that California’s state parks are essential to the health, happiness, and quality of life for all Californians. If we truly are to benefit all, we must address justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity (JEID) in our work. While the process of integrating JEID may not be easy, we are full of hope regarding our vision for a future California state park system that engages a broad audience and is welcoming and accessible to all.   

Why we’re committed to JEID:   

If we do not intentionally address systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia, which have perpetuated historic and current injustices, then we will fall short on the “for all” part of our mission work.    

First and foremost, we must acknowledge that California state parks are built on the homelands of Indigenous peoples, who were forcibly removed in part due to a failure to ratify treaties back in the 1850s. This and many other legacies of colonialism manifest today in the continued erasure of Indigenous history and erasure of current presence in parks and throughout California. We applaud the work California State Parks has begun to critically reexamine the past, including reviewing contested park names, interpretation of history, and more. We also recognize that there is still more work to be done.   

Persistent injustices levied against marginalized communities also mean that not all people feel welcome or are able to access California state parks. Systems of oppression can impact access as it relates simply to the logistics of getting to a park, but these unseen barriers also can be related to a sense of belonging when one arrives at a park. If you don’t feel welcome at a park, then it’s not truly accessible to you.    

Further, systems of oppression not only impact access, but also parks management and parks planning. Marginalized communities have myriad connections to parks that have not historically been considered in parks management and regulations. Finally, systems of oppression can impact parks planning when it comes to decisions about where new parks are built and how parks are maintained, as well as basic parks infrastructure. Without an intentional JEID lens applied to parks planning, we may be complicit in building parks that are not designed with marginalized communities in mind.     

While parks are often thought of as being for everyone, in practice that is not a universal experience. This reality compels us to engage in intentional and long-lasting JEID work.    

  

Our role in making the parks more just, equitable, inclusive, and diverse:   

As an organization that seeks to support California’s state park system, we have several essential roles and responsibilities to create a parks system that is equitable and inclusive.    

  • As an advocacy organization, we have a responsibility to influence the California Legislature to push for public funding and policies that provide the building blocks for a park system that reflects the needs and values of Californians, particularly those who are the most marginalized.    

  • As a park support organization, we have a role to play in curating information and communicating about state parks history, and perhaps especially the painful stories in our history, to inspire donors, members, volunteers, and parks users to better understand how parks are sites in which powerful JEID work can happen, be it through programming, parks management, or parks planning.    

  • We have a role to play as a connector, network builder, and funder. As a powerful and visible organization, we have a responsibility to connect with, fund, and amplify the needs of California Native American Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples, communities of color, disabled communities, and LGBTQ+ communities to ensure their needs are centered in California state parks.  

  • Finally, we recognize that justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity work is not just about our external work, but also about our internal work. We have an obligation to live the values we are advocating for in our own workplace, meaning that all staff and board members should feel a sense of belonging and be able to thrive in their positions here at California State Parks Foundation.  

   

Our commitments:    

To bring our JEID values to fruition, we are committed to acting in all areas of our work. Specifically:    

  1. We commit to fostering an organizational culture that celebrates learning and growth, leans into difficult conversations and feedback, values connection to each other, and sustains staff and board members’ well-being and sense of belonging.    

  1. We commit to centering and amplifying the needs, values, and voices of marginalized communities, specifically Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples, communities of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ communities in our advocacy work and in our programming.  

  1. We commit to building trust-based partnerships, especially with Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples, communities of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ communities.   

 

Related statements and information: 

“As board members we are all deeply committed to the mission of California State Park Foundation, “to preserve and protect the California state park system, for the benefit of all.” Our board has engaged in JEID training sessions with the intent of raising awareness, listening, and visioning. The principles the board has committed to will become deeply integrated into the fabric of our board culture which will guide discussions, decisions, and policy making. We intend to honor these guiding principles in a way that ultimately creates a welcoming and belonging experience for all parks visitors. We also recognize this will be a journey and while our individual starting points may vary, we will all travel together monitoring and evaluating our progress.” 

Birt Johnson, Jr.
California State Parks Foundation Board of Trustees, Chair

“The California state park system is a vast, diverse network, just like the state of California itself. Experiencing the entirety of this system, with all its richness, history and nuances, is work that requires the ability to learn, listen, and re-think narratives and beliefs. In embarking on this process, California State Parks Foundation acknowledges that there are people who have not been heard, supported, represented, or included in creating, enjoying, and caring for California’s state parks. My hope is that this work will sustain a learning mindset for everyone who loves and supports these incredible places, and builds a more just, diverse, equitable, and inclusive state park system for future generations.” 

Rachel Norton
California State Parks Foundation Executive Director