2020 Annual Report
Thank you for a transformational year
As a young organization with a vision for state parks and public lands that are welcoming, inclusive and climate resilient spaces, 2020 was a year of growth in every sense of the word. From where we sit (hopefully in a park, under a redwood tree somewhere), we’re looking back in awe at the extraordinary opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and resilience during the past year.
One of our most noteworthy moments of the last year occurred when we collaborated with California State Parks staff to set shared priorities for our partnership for 2021. Now, we are seeing the ripple effects of those shared priorities statewide as we multiply our efforts to increase equitable access to California parks, build lifelong park stewards, and lay the groundwork to launch programs that welcome new and returning visitors.
Our partnership with State Parks, as well as the many impacts of the international COVID-19 pandemic, have only deepened our commitment to ensuring the long-term health and wellbeing of California’s communities and the state park system. As we step into 2021, our work remains centered in these truths and the opportunities ahead to bloom, together.
We will see you out there.
Parks California is an outcome of the Parks Forward Commission – aimed to create a nonprofit public benefit organization to complement and amplify the work of the Department of Parks and Recreation. I was honored to serve on the Commission and am similarly honored to now serve as the Chair of the Board of Directors of Parks California. With new resources, expertise, and flexibility to assist the Department in accomplishing its mission, I’m proud of the work we have accomplished in 2020 and look forward to continuing this work in 2021 and into the future.
Parks California Board Chair
As a statutory partner of the California Department of Parks and Recreation, we have a simple mission – to help strengthen parks and inspire all to experience these extraordinary places.
Together, we focus our collective efforts to:
- Support programs that facilitate park access, enhance educational opportunities and create culturally relevant connections to parks, particularly among younger and more diverse communities
- Advance the protection and stewardship of natural, cultural, and historic lands, sites, and resources
- Promote the health and well-being of all California residents
The arrival of Parks California as a major partner for California State Parks – could not have happened at a more critical time. Even as the world was swept up in a pandemic and our state and public lands experienced catastrophic fires, the team at Parks California focused on the important needs for public outdoor spaces and for the public.
From supporting access, to online programming, raising funds for wildfire relief, assisting in our natural resources efforts and getting the park stories out into the world, successful and momentum-building efforts defined the trajectory of the State Parks and Parks California partnership.
The priorities outlined by Parks California for 2021/22 promise to advance unique opportunities to engage the public and strengthen parks programs – and all of these efforts are ultimately in service of the natural, cultural and human resources that keep parks healthy and accessible for you.
It is with a strong sense of gratitude and partnership that we at State Parks look forward to working hand in hand with the team at Parks California.
Director, California State Parks
We believe that all people deserve the opportunity to build meaningful, lifelong connections to nature in a way that matters most to them. (If you felt like this was a little more difficult this year, you’re not alone.) Still, we worked with various partners and communities to connect thousands of people from all across California with state parks in 2020 in new and innovative ways.
Route to Parks
Long identified as a key barrier to park access, the statewide need for transportation funding is significant. The Route to Parks grants program supports organizations that are finding innovative solutions to address barriers in those parts of the state where the greatest transportation needs exist. The program increases park access, and enhances the park experience by providing visitors a range of recreational, cultural, and historical learning opportunities. Parks California awarded funds to 20 grantees – from outdoor educational organizations to traditional park friends’ groups – with $319,388 provided to connect 9,000 people to California State Parks.
Through a collaboration with Computer Using Educators (CUE) and California State Parks, passPORTS is designed to engage students in deep and meaningful learning experiences both in and outside the classroom. This “blended learning” approach combines virtual classroom sessions with school trips to state parks. In 2021, as students transition to in-person classroom education, passPORTS will help redefine the school field trip to parks, creating a new pedagogy for virtual classroom visits that provide transportation funds so that Title 1 schools have resources to visit parks. The pilot program will bring 4,250 students to California State parks over the two-year period.
Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students ® (PORTS)
With a 17-year history of distance learning, PORTS provided families and K-12 classrooms direct digital access to the state’s 280 parks through live, interactive video-conferencing. Parks California donated technology and equipment to expand live park programming, reaching over 170,000 students in classrooms and at home last year. Equipment was sent to all state park districts, doubling the number of parks able to run virtual field trips. Items included everything needed to provide a PORTS program at a park – including tablet computers, tripods, lighting and microphones.
COVID-19 Response Grants
COVID-19 created unprecedented challenges for many California State Park partners and volunteers working alongside park staff to provide world class experiences to visitors. The COVID-19 Small Grants program helped nonprofit cooperative associations and concessionaires of California State Parks modify physical park spaces to promote visitor and employee safety, and adhere to social distancing guidelines during the pandemic. Parks California awarded $29,400 in total to 60 state park partners, with additional grants made possible in partnership with California League of Park Associations (CALPA).
Latino Outdoors is honored to be part of the inaugural Route to Parks grantee cohort. Along with our fellow grantees and Parks California, we're excited to build out the routes of equitable access so that everyone can enjoy and cherish California's beautiful and invaluable state parks.
Executive Director, Latino Outdoors – Route to Parks Grantee
COVID-19, as well as a broadened focus on the impacts of climate change and systemic racial injustice, elevated the importance of highlighting the public value of our state parks and investing in the protection of our environment – and subsequently our collective futures.
Facebook Live Conversations
As we strive for an equitable California State Park system, Parks California hosted a three-part series on Facebook to learn how state parks are developing meaningful partnerships to increase access to our parks: The Story Behind Los Angeles State Historic Park, Reclaiming Indigenous Roots: The Story of Año Nuevo and Nature as a Tool for Social Change: A Conversation with California State Parks.
ParkSpeak is a series of virtual gatherings designed to elevate innovative partnerships in State Parks by offering behind-the-scenes tours and rich conversations with guest speakers. Some of the featured conversations included Sumeg Village in Patrick’s Point State Park, La Purisima Mission State Historic Park and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Wildfire Relief Fund
Wildfires have long been a natural part of California’s landscape, but in 2020 we witnessed one of the largest and most intense wildfire seasons ever. The reports were sobering – more than 115,000 acres burned across 22 state park units through mid-October, with some park units experiencing a total loss of the built environment. In late 2020, Parks California launched a Wildfire Relief Fund to support the short and long-term wildfire recovery and resilience of California State Parks. The immediate need in the State Park System is to reopen fire-impacted state parks as safely as possible and proactively manage forests to support long-term resilience.
Natural Resource Stewardship
To establish Parks California as a lead convener and collaborator in the resource stewardship field, we launched our Resource Stewardship Initiative. The program provides professionals with training, tools, and partnerships while building State Parks’ capacity to meet its resource stewardship and climate resilience goals. We proudly work with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, California Landscape Stewardship Network, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s Natural Resources Division on this effort.
Californians increasingly recognize the role state parks and public lands play in conserving biodiversity and building resilience to climate change. In short order, Parks California has leveraged its unique authorities and innovative staff to significantly advance the science and practice of landscape-scale stewardship on our public lands.
Chief of the Natural Resources Division, California State Parks
Your support is hard at work. Sixty-three cents of every dollar go directly to facilitate access, education, and connection to state parks. With over $6.8 million in net assets, we are poised to help strengthen parks as a major partner to California State Parks.
Thank You, Donors!
Our trusted community partners were integral in reimagining the outdoors experience in 2020. To our supporters – your generosity helps strengthen parks and inspire all to experience these extraordinary places. Thank you.
Through visionary leadership, these organizations helped launch Parks California.
- David and Lucile Packard Foundation
- Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
- Resources Legacy Fund
- S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
- William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
- Cox Communications
- Bank of the West
- Northrop Grumman Foundation
- Pisces Foundation
- We Work for Good
- Hyde Hill Holdings
- Capital A Consulting
- Columbia Sportswear Company
- Yosemite Conservancy
- Teresa Alvarado
- Rosemary Bauman
- Heana Chung
- Daniel Cohn
- Myrian Solis Coronel
- John and Bobbi Ittelson
- Kindley Walsh Lawlor
- Steve Lockhart
- Sudha Pennathur
- Natalie Schaefer
As we have seen over the last year, there is an inherent resilience and innate ability to adapt in all of us (nature is the greatest teacher). This is how new ideas come to fruition, new collaborations prosper and more people than ever get to experience the joy of California’s irreplaceable state parks and outdoor spaces.
In 2021 and onward, our work will remain steadfast and focused on improving accessibility to parks and outdoor spaces, supporting natural resource stewardship and climate resilience, and strengthening the capacity of current and future state park partners and community partnerships.
Living in a state that is home to the largest and most diverse State Park System in the country, this work takes all of us. Thank you for your dedication to our shared vision of welcoming, inclusive and climate-resilient outdoor spaces, and the abundance of support. Onward – because it’s in our nature.
Equitable access to state parks has proven more important than ever. The exploration of public lands promotes health, environmental stewardship, and cultural education. We greatly appreciate Parks California’s commitment to opening up opportunities for more families to experience and learn from our Golden State’s unique natural wonders,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife.
Assembly Member, District 56