For immediate release: 02/27/2023
NEW RESEARCH: A network of 111 nonprofits provides enormous value to California’s state parks — the largest and most diverse state park system in the world — and their visitors
California State Parks: Gloria Sandoval, [email protected]
Parks California: Alfred Torres, [email protected]
California State Parks Foundation: Rachel Norton, [email protected]
California League of Park Associations: George Loyer, [email protected]
February 27, 2023 – A newly released study shows that a vast network of more than 100 nonprofit organizations plays an undeniably critical role in supporting California’s state parks.
learning, Making an impact: Exploring the nonprofit partnership in California State Parks, examines the contributions of community-led nonprofits following California’s fiscal crisis of 2011-2012, which threatened to close dozens of state parks, and efforts to strengthen public-private partnerships to foster innovation and provide additional expertise , capacity and resources to the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) system.
The Division of State Park Partnerships, California Parks, the California State Parks Foundation, the California League of Park Associations, a research team, and representatives of the nonprofit partner community collaborated in this effort to build a deeper understanding of the contribution of nonprofit partners to California’s 280 state parks and the benefits of aligning shared goals and priorities. This is the most in-depth, comprehensive study ever conducted between state parks and the nonprofit sector.
The study explores the many ways that nonprofit organizations support the mission of state parks to provide health, inspiration and education to the people of California – helping to preserve the state’s outstanding biodiversity, protecting its most valuable natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.
The study also establishes a baseline for future studies, illuminates areas for further research, and identifies opportunities to expand partnerships between state parks and nonprofit organizations.
“The value and efficacy of partnerships has never been more evident,” said Armando Quintero, director of California State Parks. “As we seek to strengthen parks with the help of a variety of supporters and seek to inspire the next generation of park managers in California, we believe our shared vision with nonprofits will be key.”
Quantitative and qualitative data in the study highlight the evolving partnership between state parks and nonprofits as an effective way to expand the reach of community engagement efforts, foster ongoing connection with parks by adding programs and events, leverage public investment such as additional sources of funding and increase access to the park for more Californians.
The study also found that disruptions from natural disasters provide new opportunities to reorient and renew partnership norms across the country.
“The growing threats of climate change, such as increasingly severe wildfires and droughts, and other phenomena, such as pandemic outbreaks, have demonstrated the urgent need to build resilience throughout the California state park system,” said Kindley Walsh Lawler, president and CEO of Parks California. “Strengthening government-nonprofit partnerships allows us to do more together for the sake of park visitors and nature.”
Through today’s public release of the study, the stakeholder group aims to make the findings widely available and, in particular, serve as a resource for local and state policymakers.
“This study illuminates a lesser-known fact about our state park system: the significant investment of volunteers and nonprofits in supporting the mission of state parks. Californians love their state park system, and many of them have given personal time and money to ensure that state parks continue to provide a high-quality experience for visitors and communities now and into the future,” said Rachel Norton, executive director of the California Foundation of state parks. “We hope that as policymakers learn more about these contributions, they will gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to manage these amazing places.”
The study provides best practices to help the relationship between state parks and nonprofit groups flourish.
“Our findings show that state park nonprofit partners provide high-value financial and volunteer resources to our parks and their visitors when partners and park managers collaborate effectively together,” said George Loyer, California League of Park Associations. “Partnerships also contribute to deeper support from local stakeholder communities to improve and expand access to all communities and to tell previously untold stories about the parks.”
The Potrero Group, a California-based research and management consulting firm, served as the principal project manager and research lead. A combination of quantitative and qualitative data was collected, including a survey of State Parks’ nonprofit partners, IRS Form 990 review, focus groups, case studies, and individual interviews. Recurring themes were identified to characterize the nonprofit partnership field, explore success factors and current challenges, identify trends affecting nonprofit partnerships, and make recommendations.
The full study can be downloaded from the Parks California website here.
ABOUT THE STATE PARKS OF CALIFORNIA
The California Department of Parks and Recreation, known as California State Parks, and the programs maintained by its Office of Historic Preservation and Divisions of Boating and Waterways and Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation provide health, inspiration and education to the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s outstanding biological diversity, protect its most valuable natural and cultural resources, and create opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation. Learn more at www.parks.ca.gov.
FOR PARKS CALIFORNIA
California is home to the highest quality park system in the world. There are 280 state park units, ranging from urban parks in the heart of our cities, to beaches along our iconic coastline, to historic parks celebrating human ingenuity, to redwood groves and desert expanses. Parks California is based on a new model of public, private and nonprofit partnership, with our strength realized through statewide collaboration, working together to solve complex problems more effectively and efficiently to create long-term solutions. As a mandatory partner of California State Parks, we have a simple mission—to help strengthen parks and inspire everyone to experience these extraordinary places. For more information, visit https://parkscalifornia.org.
FOR THE CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS FOUNDATION
The California State Parks Foundation is an independent, member-supported, nonprofit organization that mobilizes a diverse network of Californians to be active champions for our state parks. At the California State Parks Foundation, we believe that all Californians are essential to maintaining our state parks. Every day, we inform and inspire current and future generations of park champions, empowering them to be the passionate advocates our state parks need. Because when we build a movement of park advocates, we ensure the long-term sustainability of our incredible state park treasures. Learn more at www.calparks.org or find the California State Parks Foundation on Facebook or Instagram and Twitter (@calparks).??
ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA LEAGUE OF PARK ASSOCIATIONS:
The California League of Park Associations (CALPA) is a membership association supporting a network of nonprofit organizations partnering with California State Parks. CALPA works to create this sustainable network of nonprofit park partners, empowering them through education, collaboration, innovation and advocacy, strengthening California’s state park system for generations to come. For more information, visit https://calparksleague.org.
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California’s state parks provide health, inspiration and education to the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s outstanding biodiversity, protect its most valuable natural and cultural resources, and create opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.