State Parks

Towering Redwoods, Hendy Woods State Park
Towering Redwoods, Hendy Woods State Park

Archived blog posts on the California State Parks crisis are tagged with “California State Parks.” Click on that link and follow “Next” at the end of each post.

By surprise, on June 3, 2013, California State Park officials announced the new “Parks Forward” Initiative, created to transform California’s beleaguered state parks system.

A volunteer panel, named on August 6, 2013, will lead the new initiative as the “Parks Forward Commission” to try to figure out how protect and run a system that lacks sustainable funding. The state’s “General Fund” support for parks has dropped by 37 percent in the past five years, and the parks department has a deferred maintenance backlog of more than $1.3 billion.

In 2011 and 2012, nonprofits and lawmakers fought to avert a major crisis that threatened to close 70 state parks in California. Communities cobbled together funds and unprecedented partnerships and operating agreements to keep park gates open and services running.

After a series of scandals that shook the parks department and public trust in summer 2012, Californians gained a two-year window, until the summer of 2014, to rebuild the park system.

The new Parks Forward Initiative follows a March 2013 report by the Little Hoover Commission titled, “Beyond Crisis: Recapturing Excellence in California’s State Park System.” The year-long studied found that the state’s parks department “can’t generate enough revenue on its own to replace continual reductions in taxpayer support,” the current centralized operating model is “obsolete,” the “staffing structure is ossified” and that “relationships have deteriorated with many of the park system’s most important partners and supporters.”

All of this follows legislation passed in the summer of 2012 to stave off the crisis. On September 25, 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to institute a two-year freeze on closing state parks and to dedicate funds to preserve parks in the short-term and spur innovation for long-term sustainability of the parks system. Assembly Bill 1478 guarantees that parks will stay open through June 2014 and appropriated $10 million to be used to match private funds that nonprofits raise for parks under donor and operating agreements.

Assembly Bill 1589 requires California State Parks to develop a prioritized action plan, including new revenue generating opportunities by July 1, 2013. AB 1589 also created the State Parks Protection Fund and requires the Franchise Tax Board to revise state tax return forms to provide individuals the opportunity to purchase a State Park Annual Pass or make a tax deductible donation to support parks, via their tax return.

Since the beginning of the parks crisis, I have tracked efforts by nonprofits and other agencies to keep parks open through donations, volunteerism and other arrangements. You will find a list of those parks in the table below.

What will happen to these new park partnerships in the future? Will California find a long-term, sustainable funding solution for the state parks? Archived blog posts on the crisis are tagged with “California State Parks.”

#Park with PartnershipSigned AgreementImage
45Anderson Marsh State Historic ParkD- Donor Agreement with Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association
44Picacho State Recreation AreaOther - State Parks decided closing the park would put structures at risk.
Picacho State Recreation Area
43Gray Whale Cove State BeachD - San Mateo Coast Natural History Association Donor Agreement Gray Whale Cove State Beach
42China Camp State ParkONP - Friends of China Camp now operateChina Camp State Park
41Saddleback Butte State ParkD - Donor AgreementSaddleback Butte State Park
40Tule Elk State Natural Reserve D – Bella Vista Water District
39 Fort Humboldt SHPSR-Open with service reductions
38Russian Gulch State ParkSR-Open with service reductions
37Twin Lakes State BeachSR-Open with service reductions
36McConnell SRAD-Local donor group
35George J. Hatfield SRAD-Local donor group
34Austin Creek State ParkONP–Stewards of Coast and Redwoods
33Pio Pico State Historic ParkD — City of Whittier and Friends of Pio Pico
32Annadel State ParkOG –Operating Agreement Sonoma Regional Parks
31Portola Redwoods State ParkD - Donor Agreement with Save the Redwoods League, Portola and Castle Rock Foundation and Peninsula Open Space TrustSlate Grove, Portola Redwoods State Park
30Turlock Lake SRAC - Concession Agreement - American Land and Leisure sent notice of intent to award contractTurlock Lake SRA
29Woodson Bridge SRAC - Concession Agreement - American Land and Leisure sent notice of intent to award contractWoodson Bridge SRA
28Brannan Island SRAC - Concession Agreement - American Land and Leisure sent notice of intent to award contractBrannan Island SRA
27Governor’s Mansion SHP D - Donor AgreementGovernor’s Mansion SHP
26Limekiln State ParkC - Concession Agreement - Private park companiesLimekiln State Park
25Weaverville Joss HouseD - Donor AgreementWeaverville Joss House SHP
24Castle Rock State ParkD-Donor AgreementCastle Rock State Park photo by Raul Diaz
23Shasta State Historic ParkD-Donor AgreementShasta State Historic Park
22Santa Susana State Historic ParkD-Donor AgreementSanta Susan State Historic Park photo by Lucy D'Mot
21Los Encinos State Historic ParkD-Donor AgreementLos Encinos State Historic Park photo by Lucy D'Mot
20Sugarloaf Ridge State ParkONP - Team SugarloafSugarloaf Ridge State Park thumbnail image
19Petaluma Adobe State Historic ParkD-Donor Agreement with Sonoma Petaluma State Historic Park AssociationPetaluma Adobe State Historic Park thumbnail image
18Palomar Mountain State ParkD-Donor Agreement - Friends of Palomar Mountain State ParkPalomar State Park thumbnail image
17Grizzly Creek Redwoods State ParkOG – Humboldt County, with fund help from Save the RedwoodsGrizzly Creek Redwoods State Park thumbnail
16Benicia Capitol State Historic ParkOG – Operating Agreement with government agency: City of Benicia and Benicia State Parks AssociationBenicia State Historic Park
15Bale Grist Mill State Historic ParkOG - Operating Agreement with government agency: Napa Valley Regional Parks and Open Space DistrictBale Grist Mill State Historic Park thumbnail image
14Bothe-Napa Valley State ParkOG - Operating Agreement with government agency: Napa Valley Reg. Parks and Open Space DistrictBothe-Napa Valley State Park thumbnail image
13Santa Cruz Mission State Historic ParkD-Donor Agreement - Friends of Santa Cruz State ParksMission Santa Cruz State Historic Park thumbnail of historic photo
12Jack London State Historic ParkONP- Operating Agreement with a Nonprofit (AB 42): Nonprofit Valley of the Moon Interpretive Association to operateJack London State Historic Park honors volunteers from Valley of the Moon Natural History Association
11Plumas-Eureka State ParkD-Plumas-Eureka Foundation donation agreementPlumas Eureka State Park thumbnail
10Jug Handle State Natural ReserveD- Olmsted donation and California State Parks Foundation matching fundsJughandle State Natural Reserve, thumbnail of photo by Steve Rotman
9South Yuba River State ParkOther – County agreement on no parking signsSouth Yuba River State Park thumbnail
8Tomales Bay State ParkU.S. National Park ServiceTomales Bay State Park
7Samuel P. Taylor State ParkU.S. National Park ServiceSamuel P. Taylor State Park thumbnail
6Mono Lake Tufa State Natural ReserveC - Concession Agreement: Bodie Foundation to collect parking feesMono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve
5McGrath State BeachOther – Donation/grants to fix failing sewer line and support parks operationsMcGrath State Beach
4Henry W. Coe State ParkD – Donation from Coe Preservation Fund for California State Parks to operateHenry Coe State Park, photo by Laure Latham
3Del Norte Coast Redwoods State ParkU.S. National Park ServiceDel Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, thumbnail of photo by Lucy D'Mot
2Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation AreaOG – Operating Agreement with government agency: City of Colusa to operateColusa Sacramento River State Recreation Area, link to story and photos by Lucy D'Mot
1Antelope Valley Indian MuseumD - Donation: California State Parks continues to operateAntelope Valley Indian Museum

Table Legend

  • D-Donation
  • OG-Operating Agreement with government agency
  • ONP-Operating Agreement with a Nonprofit (authorized by new 2011 law AB42)
  • C-Concession Agreement
  • Other- Varies

4 thoughts on “State Parks”

  1. Is this an updated list for 2012? I see the date above is for Sept 2011. I accessed this page from a link in a current article re: the recent 2012 reprieves. Any info would help,


    1. Hi Nicole – I first created this page in September 2011, but the list is up to date as of July 1, 2012. I will see about changing the page date because I don’t want to confuse anyone. Thanks for pointing it out!

    1. You made my day, Glenn!
      I am so glad you wrote and included a link to your site ( I look forward to following your posts. I am a big fan of Mono Lake as well and once kayaked there. I agree that it felt like “paddling on another planet.” The situation at Mono Lake and the closure is somewhat more complex because there are both federal and state jurisdictions there. The South Tufa Reserve is on the federal side, but the agencies collaborate back and forth. The State Parks Dept. and Mono Lake Comm. have essentially been running trail maintenance and public interpretation at the South Tufa Reserve for the feds. Geoff McQuilkin, the executive director of the Mono Lake Committee, told me he was very concerned that that site would deteriorate as well as the other two access points in the state’s jurisdiction. The state also oversees concessionaire agreements on the lake to make sure that people follow safety protocols and protect wildlife. So, he was not sure of what would happened to that process.

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