First-ever virtual Park Advocacy Day brings together parks advocates, partners and leaders to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing state parks today
On May 12, 2020, California State Parks Foundation hosted its 18th annual Park Advocacy Day to drive awareness and action on issues impacting the California state parks system amid COVID-19. The event has historically brought hundreds of advocates to the halls of the State Capitol, but this year was held virtually, and focused on addressing the unique financial and operational challenges California’s parks are facing in the wake of recent park closures and looming budget deficit.
“California State Parks Foundation is dedicated to ensuring safe access to our treasured state parks as an essential public health resource for all Californians during this crisis,” said Rachel Norton, Executive Director of California State Parks Foundation. “Recent closures made clear the role that green spaces play in our resident’s lives, but this year, we are navigating new disruptions to our parks system, including severe financial constraints, that may impact the availability and accessibility of these spaces.”
The virtual lobby day included conversations with park leaders and advocates, including California’s Natural Resources Agency Undersecretary, Angela Barranco and Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee Chair Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) on what to expect for parks in the coming months.
“California’s parks are more important now than ever and I’m proud to support programs and initiatives that protect, enhance and improve access to these incredible spaces,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “Like many other sectors, the parks community has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are working together to ensure parks are safe and accessible resources for mental and physical health, especially for the underrepresented communities and families who need them most.”
The impacts of the COVID-19 crisis have been felt across the state, and California’s parklands are no exception. Limitation of visitors and park closures caused significant declines in revenue and, like many industries, the park community is entering a new budget cycle with uncertainty and fiscal distress. Recent closures and immediate public dissent clearly demonstrated parks have historically, and especially during this crisis, been a constant and relied on resource for Californians – but the funding necessary to sustain these spaces, is not.
This year’s Park Advocacy Day comes days before Governor Newsom is expected to release his revised version of the 2020-2021 state budget. Budget projections are predicting the deepest fiscal deficit in state history and drastic cuts across industries.
State parks have long been battling budgetary constraints. Even before COVID-19, the state parks system faced nearly $1 billion worth of deferred maintenance – work critical to keeping parks safe, clean, and accessible. The state parks system relies heavily on funds allocated from the General Fund which has historically directly fluctuated with economy. But this year, ensuring sustainable funding for parks has never been more important.
“As California navigates reopening the state and residents continue to cope with the increased stress and uncertainty around COVID-19, parks must remain a resource that our residents can rely on,” said Holly Martinez, California State Parks Foundation’s Director of Programs and Advocacy. “We look forward to the continued work and collaboration between our advocates, partners, and policymakers in ensuring our parks can continue to serve as a public health solution for all Californians during and after these unprecedented times.”
To learn more about California State Parks Foundation and Parks Advocacy Day 2020, visit calparks.org/pad.
California State Parks Foundation is an independent, member-supported nonprofit that mobilizes a diverse network of Californians to be active champions for our state parks. At California State Parks Foundation, we believe that all Californians are essential to sustaining our state parks. Every day, we inform and inspire current and future generations of park champions, enabling them to be the passionate advocates our state parks need. Because when we build a movement of park supporters, we ensure the long-term sustainability of our incredible state park treasures. Learn more at www.calparks.org, or find California State Parks Foundation on Facebook, or Instagram and Twitter (@calparks).