About Us | Cal Parks

“Parks need a strong constituency to flourish, one that mirrors the true size and diversity of the population that uses them. As the world becomes more crowded, that constituency will become more important.”    

William Penn Mott, Jr., Founder of California State Parks Foundation   


California State Parks Foundation's Annual Reports and other financial information:

Our History

California’s state parks comprise the largest and most diverse natural and cultural heritage holdings of any state in the nation. They include beaches, underwater refuges, native Californian cultural preserves, museums, lighthouses, ghost towns, recreation areas, and wilderness areas. State parks’ peaks, deserts, redwoods, and coastlines are some of the most immediately recognizable natural features in the world. For 52 years, California State Parks Foundation has been the leading statewide voice in advocating for a sustainably funded state park system, access to parks for all, and enduring park protection.   

The organization was founded in 1969 by William Penn Mott, Jr., to be a partner to the California Department of Parks and Recreation in protecting and preserving the California state park system. As director of California State Parks, William Penn Mott, Jr., rallied a core group of friends and park supporters to form California State Parks Foundation. With Director Mott, this group believed that parks needed an independent nonprofit partner to help engage a broader audience of park supporters, access and inspire philanthropy, and better serve more diverse communities. They committed to improving the quality of life for all Californians by expanding access to the natural beauty, rich culture and history, and educational and health opportunities offered by California’s state parks.      

Early in its history, California State Parks Foundation helped grow the system by acquiring land for the state, thereby preserving these treasures for generations to come. As California’s state parks were in a period of rapid growth, we were a leader and partner in safeguarding our state’s natural and historical resources.     

As the new millennium approached, the California state park system began to show its age with crumbling infrastructure and mounting deferred maintenance. It was also increasingly apparent that many Californians do not have access to their state parks and all the health and wellness benefits they provide. State parks were suffering at the mercy of the state’s boom-and-bust budget cycle, and were a target for development and other threats, such as road construction, powerline corridors, trains, racetracks, golf courses, and more. California State Parks Foundation needed to increase its advocacy and presence in Sacramento to defend the state park system in the capitol.   

Over the course of its first 52 years, the organization built a dedicated community of over 70,000 members and raised more than $300 million to benefit state parks. Today, California has the largest and most biologically diverse state park system in the nation, with 279 park units that are vitally important to the well-being of our state’s environment, economy, and quality of life. California State Parks Foundation continues to fight for our state parks wherever and whenever they need us.