California State Parks Foundation Funds Improvement Grants in State Parks Across California | Cal Parks

29 June 2023

San Francisco, Calif. — With government funding for California state parks still unstable, it is vital to provide parks with the support they need to continue their important work. With your help, we’re granting $47,300 across six state parks to help them improve their infrastructure for visitors. These projects span from making visitor centers more culturally relevant to ensuring river safety in the wake of winter storms. These necessary improvements can make or break a park visitor’s experience, setting the tone for their relationship with state parks and the benefits they provide.


(California State Parks, Sierra District) — $7,300 
Grass Valley, CA 

Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley, CA was selected as one of 19 state parks to be included in the new California State Park Adventure Pass program serving California's 4th-grade students and their families. New California State Park Adventure Pass visitors, along with the changes in visitation due to COVID-19, brought a sizeable increase in visitation to Empire Mine State Historic Park.

With funding from California State Parks Foundation, California State Parks will dedicate a significant portion of a newly hired permanent staff member’s duties to serving California State Park Adventure Pass families and reaching additional 4th-grade families. In partnership with Sierra Gold Parks Foundation, the Empire Mine State Historic Park Adventure Pass Interpreter will form a strategy to reach 4th graders and their families in the area and develop interpretive programs and materials to provide a rich experience when they visit Empire Mine State Historic Park.


(Friends of Sutter’s Fort) — $10,000 
Sacramento, CA
Friends of Sutter’s Fort is a nonprofit cooperating association serving Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park. Over the last three years, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park has fundamentally changed the way history is interpreted at the historic site, including providing a more historically accurate and inclusive history, creating new events that break down barriers of access, and creating a more welcoming and inclusive experience. The media room at Sutter’s Fort is being transformed into a space where visitors are oriented for a self-guided tour and watch an important 12-minute documentary, “John Sutter: What We Didn’t Learn in School.” This video was created by the Center for Sacramento History as part of a series exploring the history of systemic racism in Sacramento, and it focuses on John Sutter’s impact on the Native communities of Sacramento then and now. The video encourages visitors to reflect on the traditional understanding of national, state, and local history.

With funding from California State Parks Foundation, Friends of Sutter’s Fort will transform this space from outdated and uncomfortable into a more welcoming, comfortable place for visitors to watch the movie and reflect on Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park’s complicated history and its impact on all people. To make the room more welcoming, comfortable, and informational, renovations would begin with signage, new seating, and the design and printing of new interpretive panels. 



(South Yuba River Citizens League, SYRCL) — $10,000 
Bridgeport, CA
South Yuba River State Park faces both climate threats and access challenges. Increased wildfire risk, dangerous river conditions, and rugged terrain pose hazards for the park and its 800,000 visitors. Since 2012, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), has been running the River Ambassador program as an educational outreach first line of defense, acting as stewards of the South Yuba River. California State Parks Foundation has provided integral funding to this program since its start. SYRCL River Captains manage River Ambassador volunteers who speak one-on-one with visitors at crossings, beaches, and on trails to promote safe and responsible use of the river, as well as how to reduce the risk of wildfire while they travel.

Since 2022, thanks to generous funding from California State Parks Foundation, SYRCL has employed a bilingual River Captain who conducts outreach into nearby Spanish-speaking communities and engages with the South Yuba State Park Spanish-only speaking visitors. Expanding the River Ambassador program to more sites within the South Yuba River State Park, as well as increasing the program’s bilingual outreach, will shore up the program’s river safety and wildfire messaging and help prevent river-related injuries and fatalities, as well as a catastrophic wildfire in the area.


(Malibu Creek Docents) — $10,000 
Calabasas, CA

The visitor center at Malibu Creek State Park is a 100-year-old historic building that was converted by the Malibu Creek Docents in the mid-1970s. The visitor center is the only building remaining from the park’s early 20th-Century era (1910s-1940s). On average, over 10,000 visitors come through the visitor center each year, and many express great interest in learning about the park’s trails, terrain, and topography. The current two-dimensional maps cannot capture the unique landscape of the park as a watershed, and many visitors cannot tell how steep the trails are when they are planning their visits and hikes at the park.

With funding from California State Parks Foundation, Malibu Creek Docents will create a 3D topographic map of Malibu Creek State Park for display at the park’s visitor center. This custom model will show the park from a satellite view, including colors, the various hills and valleys, boundaries, and other specific features unique to this area. Labels with text, lines, and graphics for the trails and various key sites will be added. This visual display of the park’s terrain will be an invaluable tool for visitors planning their hikes. It will also add significant value to the visitor center and enhance the park experience for the public. 



(Mountain Parks Foundation) — $10,000 
Felton, CA 

A growing body of research establishes a strong link between contact with nature and enhanced human wellness. Just as humans need to connect with the natural world to be healthy, so, too, does the natural world need human champions to act as allies in sustaining its health. Given the enormous potential benefits of natural experiences, Mountain Parks Foundation has partnered with California State Parks to create a nature-based wellness program offering a variety of opportunities for participants to experience the healing benefits of our redwoods state parks. 

California State Parks Foundation is providing funding to the Mountain Parks Foundation Redwood Rx program to cover costs like staffing expenses, instructors’ fees, and outreach and scholarship programs. The Redwood Rx approach will provide a range of nature-based guided programs in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and Big Basin Redwoods State Park that allow participants to experience the health and wellness benefits of connecting with nature. 

The program aims to do the following: 

  • Inspire participants to interact with nature and experience the positive impacts on their health and wellness first-hand 

  • Create a catalog of data-driven nature-based wellness programs for the public

  • Reach new and underserved communities of all ages to increase exposure to the health benefits found in nature and parks

  • Provide low-cost and/or free nature-based wellness programs to participants who need financial assistance

  • Provide experiences in nature that foster alliances with parks and the natural world

State Parks Improvement grants are made possible by the William H. Donner Foundation and California State Parks Foundation donors. Learn more at about California State Parks Foundation grant programs and donate to support future park improvements.