For two-thirds of the state’s population, it is very likely that their first experience with nature is in an urban park. As California’s urban population continues to increase, the need for equitable park access becomes even more critical. By creating accessible green spaces near people’s homes, urban parks increase residents’ opportunities to reap the benefits of nature – contributing to the health and wellbeing of California’s communities.
Key benefits of urban parks:
- Provide a valuable space for exercise and relaxation which can improve residents’ physical and mental health.
- Natural areas create habitats for native species and learning opportunities that can inspire a sense of appreciation for nature and the interconnections of life.
- Mitigate the effects of climate change in urban environments by lowering temperature, improving air quality, preventing flooding, and adapting to sea level rise.
- Inspire the next generation of park stewards by expanding experiences to new visitors and fostering connections to nature.
Urban parks serve as a critical gateway to the natural world – and a springboard to exploration, appreciation for the protection of the environment, and lifelong relationships with nature. Yet for people to begin this relationship, urban parks must be truly excellent, and meet the needs of local communities. They must offer thoughtful amenities and culturally relevant programs, all which create meaningful connections to place. Parks California collaborates with nonprofit and state partners to support and scale successful partnerships, programming and facility use approaches in urban parks. By creating a shared vision and passion for state parks, we can create a more welcoming park experience.
Candlestick Point State Recreation Area
California’s first urban state park, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, is a shoreline park that provides access to open space and recreation in one of San Francisco’s most underinvested neighborhoods. The park itself was a community led environmental justice initiative to “return the shoreline to a more natural and beautiful condition.”
To ensure local communities feel welcome, Parks California, California State Parks, and a core group of local nonprofits are working to rebuild community trust and reinvigorate the park through partnerships. The joint effort, known as Candlestick Point Partners, is a collaborative network of organizations dedicated to elevating Candlestick Point State Recreation Area into a welcoming and thriving community hub. By leveraging each other’s capacity and resources, the collective resources will strengthen Candlestick Point State Recreation Area and provide a richer park experience for visitors
As a collaborative, the goals are to:
- Improve physical facilities to allow park amenities to shine.
- Engage community with welcoming high-quality programming that reflects the community’s cultural values.
- Address visitor safety and preserve the natural beauty of the park.
- Support the park staffs’ capacity and create excellent visitor experiences through training and hiring.
- Create a sustainable long-term funding strategy.
- Create and sustain a welcoming, thriving, and inspiring State Park experience at Candlestick Point.
The Bowtie Parcel
The Bowtie Parcel is adjacent to the Rio de Los Angeles State Park along the LA River and is slated to become the next California State Park. To ensure the new park’s design serves nearby communities in the most equitable way, Parks California is proud to support a new community engagement and leadership approach – the Bowtie Youth Council, led by Clockshop. The council, which was made up of young adults, organized community engagement sessions over the course of several months to survey their communities’ vision for the park. From the community feedback, the council discussed ideas and assigned priorities in the park’s design and future programming. The youth council then advocated for their design in public meetings, with park professionals, and presented their priorities to California State Parks. The council’s findings have been embraced by California State Parks and will inform the future design of the park. The success of this project will serve as an example for effective community engagement.