Parks Forward: Increasing Partnership, Investment for California’s State Parks

A bright future for California's redwood state parks. Photo by Jon Parmentier
A bright future for California’s redwood state parks. Photo by Jon Parmentier

The Parks Forward Report officially adopted this morning is a great step toward a strong future for the California state park system. Having partnered with State Parks for much of our 97-year history, Save the Redwoods League is deeply invested in the future of the department.

From our role in the creation and expansion of parks through land acquisition to advancing research on climate change, building bridges and trails, and designing and printing State Park brochures, the League takes great pride in the nearly $140 million that our supporters have donated to our park support activities over the years. With the adoption of the recommendations in this report, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our State Parks partner and will be prepared to increase our investment in our redwood parks.

The League is exploring how to do even more to improve California’s redwood parks, and many of the recommendations in this report will facilitate that deeper engagement. The League’s expanded role in state parks will likely mean increasing activities we already undertake, such as forest restoration and natural resource management, upgrading park infrastructure, and enhancing education and interpretation programming; as well as finding new ways to benefit parks and visitors alike.

We are thrilled to see the Parks Department and the Natural Resources Agency embracing a commitment to fundamental change with the creation of the transformation team. We share the commission’s dedication to increasing outdoor education for young people, investing in natural resource management and climate research in the parks, and expanding park access for California’s underserved and urban communities. And, as stated in the report, all of these transformative opportunities will be dependent on ensuring stable resources and public funding.

Today, California’s state parks shelter 60 percent of the world’s remaining old-growth redwood forests. And through our research programs in the redwood parks, we are learning more every day about the value of these forests. In 2013, Save the Redwoods League, in partnership with Humboldt State University, discovered that the ancient coast redwood parks of Northern California are a vital carbon sink, storing more carbon aboveground than any other forest on Earth (up to 5,000 metric tons per hectare). The more we learn about the redwoods and our parks, the more we understand how critical they are for the well-being of our environment and our communities.

California’s state parks are the envy of the world. The parks are the driver of our tourist economy. They keep our children healthy and active. They help clean our air and water. They tell the story of our diverse history and cultures. And as stated by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. – League Councilor for 29 years and architect of the department’s earliest vision – our parks are a reflection of our right to the pursuit of happiness.

This is true of the full range of parks, from the inner city to the remote wilderness. But the redwoods hold a special place in the Parks Department’s legacy. It is California’s redwood forests that inspired the creation of our park system, it is the redwoods that continue to enthrall people from around the world, and it is the redwoods that will catalyze a love of the outdoors in the next generation of park visitors. Any investment in the future of our state parks must include the diligent stewardship of our redwood forests and improvements to the visitor experience in our redwood parks. The League stands ready to amplify that investment and help to restore and to reintroduce the redwood forests to the people of California and beyond.

On behalf of our Board and staff, we want to express our most sincere respect and appreciation for the expertise and months of hard work of the Parks Forward Commission. The Parks Forward Report represents a thoughtful and substantial step towards a stronger future for our state parks. The League is thrilled to have been actively engaged in the commission’s process, and we are inspired by the work we will do together as partners long into the future.


Let’s keep in touch on Twitter! Follow me at @SamH4Redwoods for news and insights about redwoods and conservation.

About the author

President and Chief Enthusiast for the Outdoors (CEO) of Save the Redwoods League, Sam brings more than 25 years of experience in overseeing land conservation programs from the remote wilderness to the inner city.

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