New Law Marks Important First Step in Increasing Access to the Health Benefits of California’s Parks
Sacramento, CA – As the 2019 legislative session comes to an end, California State Parks Foundation recognizes the critical progress made to ensure all Californians have access to the health and wellness benefits our state parks provide. Governor Gavin Newsom considered two parks access bills, AB 209 (Limόn) and AB 556 (Carrillo), ultimately signing AB 209 into law. The introduction of both bills is an important first step in a broader effort to prioritize funding to programs that will increase access to green spaces, especially for our youth, and improve the wellness of our communities.
“The introduction and significant progress of these bills is just the start – we hope that AB 209 and AB 556 have sparked a meaningful conversation amongst our lawmakers and state leadership around the need to break down the barriers that prevent access to our parks, especially for our youth and those in underserved communities,” said Rachel Norton, Executive Director, California State Parks Foundation. “We will use the successes from this year to continue to pave the way forward so that all Californians can experience the health and wellness benefits that our state parks provide – parks are a right not a privilege.”
Mounting research points to the numerous mental and physical health benefits that the outdoors provides and are a clear public health solution that should be a right for all Californians. Recently published research from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and California State Parks Foundation demonstrates the opportunity that our state parks hold. With findings showing that more than half of Californians under 18 live within close range of a state park, it’s clear that our parks are a tremendous and potentially underutilized resource to promote youth health across the state. These findings confirm that it’s time for us to seriously invest in more programming, like newly minted law AB 209, that activate the network of communities living near state parks.
“We must continue to push and engage in programs and policies that will increase outdoor experiences, especially for our youth, which the critical parks access bills introduced this legislative session began to do,” said Holly Martinez, Director of Programs and Advocacy, California State Parks Foundation. “Continuing this conversation and creating new pathways to California’s state parks will help those within arm’s reach of open space begin to experience the proven health and wellness benefits they provide so we can build a healthier, stronger state now and for generations to come.”