The California Department of Parks and Recreation has entered an exciting and challenging two-year, focused, effort to transform the State Park System. The February 2015 Parks Forward Commission report identified a Parks Department that is in need of major operational improvements and recommended "A New Vision for California State Parks". We have taken their advice seriously and prior to their final report, launched a two year Parks Transformation process that will fundamentally change how the Department's services are provided in future years. The Transformation Team has developed an Action Plan that will enable the Department to become more relevant to California's emerging diverse and underserved communities, to increase partnerships of all kinds, to use the most advanced technology and management tools, and to develop excellent management systems that will sustain and enhance our services for future generations. Additional information about the Transformation Team effort can be found by visiting www.parks.ca.gov/TransformationTeam.
The Parks Forward Commission report highlights that oftentimes local park agencies are best at providing services to local communities, especially traditionally underserved communities. California's 2015 SCORP complements the Parks Forward Commission report and the efforts of the Transformation Team regarding increasing park access to all Californians. This SCORP recognizes the important role that approximately 900 local agencies have in creating and maintaining close-to-home parks within communities throughout California.
Together, we have an opportunity to achieve excellence as we transform California's treasured park system into a world class model; I invite you to join me in this pursuit.
Lisa Ann L. Mangat, Director
California Department of Parks and Recreation
State Liaison Officer for the Land and Water Conservation Fund
A SCORP is required of every state in order to be eligible for grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act. Over the past fifty years, LWCF grants have created or improved over one thousand parks throughout California. California's 150-year park legacy created one of the world's greatest systems, with nearly 1,000 agencies managing 14,000 parks. This plan provides pathways to continue the legacy throughout California.
This edition of the SCORP provides a strategy for statewide outdoor recreation leadership and action to meet the state's identified outdoor recreation needs. This SCORP is a product of the California Department of Parks and Recreation ("State Parks") that holds the authority to represent and act for the State in dealing with the Department of the Interior for purposes of the LWCF Act of 1965, as amended. The action plan is derived from public input and a statewide evaluation of existing park and recreation lands.
Public participation for this SCORP's development included:
The California State Park's new Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools represent the nation's first interactive statewide analysis of park availability and demographic information at the neighborhood level. This increased information will allow for an analysis of park access to enhance park planning efforts for Californians. These tools are available at www.parks.ca.gov/SCORP.
Section 6(f)(3) of the LWCF Act requires that property acquired or developed with LWCF assistance shall be operated and maintained for public outdoor recreation in perpetuity. In many cases, even a relatively small LWCF grant in a park of hundreds or thousands of acres provides Section 6(f)(3) protection to the entire park site. Changes to a 6(f)(3) protected park to a use that is inconsistent with public outdoor recreation requires the National Park Service's approval.
California's last SCORP was updated in 2008. This 2015 SCORP improves upon the 2008 SCORP. The seven products listed above were developed with LWCF planning grants as part of California's 2015 SCORP. This document summarizes key findings, introduces new GIS tools to assess local park needs, and establishes priorities for statewide actions including the use of LWCF allocations to California. For further guidance on how to submit LWCF funding applications, including Project Selection Criteria, go to www.parks.ca.gov/grants_lwcf.
During the "Gilded Age" of the late 1800s, the effects of rapid urbanization began to adversely affect the natural environment. Old growth forests and spectacular landscapes were being destroyed. Responding to this trend, the Sempervirens Club, Sierra Club, and Save the Redwoods League promoted parks as a means of protecting California's natural resources for future generations.
During this same era, cities began developing parks to provide urban residents with close-to-home connections to nature. News outlets in the late 1800s called parks "the lungs of the city."
Three examples of the nation's most visited and largest city parks created in the 1800s include:
The state's public lands legacy expansion became a reality through the statewide bond acts, regional and local taxes, federal support and political planning, and regulatory decisions. Through these opportunities, every Californian has helped build this system by devoting taxes and support, often through volunteer assistance.
California has a land mass of 100 million acres. The analysis in this SCORP (Section III, page 15) relies strongly on the California Protected Areas Database (CPAD). CPAD is a GIS inventory of all lands owned outright for park and open space purposes by public agencies and certain non-governmental organizations. Learn more about CPAD at: www.CALands.org.
While California has a land mass of 100 million acres, this SCORP focuses on the 47 million acres statewide that remain open and could be used for recreation. These areas include:
Not included in the SCORP's focus on 47 million acres are other non-recreational open space lands in CPAD because they have restricted or no public recreation access. Examples are below:
In addition, some types of recreation locations are not included in CPAD at all, and therefore not included in the SCORP analysis:
By number, parks are mostly owned by city, special district and county agencies
[chart] City 9,000 County 1,200 Special District 1,700 State 631 Federal 500 Non Profit, other 450
[chart] By acres, parks and open space are mainly owned by federal and state agencies City 316,000 County 238,000 Special District 445,000 State 1,990,000 Federal 43,700,000 Non Profit, other 210,000
California's 150-year parks legacy has been created through the actions of nearly 1,000 public agencies and nonprofits. These park partners reflect the diversity of the state's park needs:
California has benefited greatly from this system of both public and private agencies that have made parks a priority. The California Department of Parks and Recreation serves an important role in this system. The Department's roles include the following:
Families and organizations have many needs; among them are the needs for recreation and access to the outdoors. Parks and recreation:
In addition to these direct benefits, the process of planning, creating, using, and improving parks can generate positive change. Community based planning gives stronger ties to one another and safeguards our neighborhoods, bringing people and the governments that serve them closer together.
Public parks and recreation opportunities serve as gateways to a healthier America.
Recognition of many health challenges demands various responses. Parks can help with many if not most of these challenges: obesity; life expectancy; immune systems; general risk of disease; and overall quality of life.
Parks as social meeting places also grow community health — encouraging more volunteering, social engagement, and civic pride. Parks provide affordable places to exercise. Youth join teams and enrichment programs in parks. Parks serve as strong catalysts in reclaiming urban run-down areas, and even contribute to environmental health — park vegetation can clean some pollutants improving local air quality.
Examples of health benefits include:
The health benefits of parks aren't just a matter of feeling positive about park-based recreation: a 2011 study conducted on a city park and recreation system revealed that the city's residents were able to save $64 million in annual medical costs as a result of getting physical activity in city parks. For individuals, the annual medical cost difference between being active or not was as much as $250–500.
Play is vital for the health in children. Health professionals agree that the decline of active outdoor play in childhood is linked to the rise of childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and decreased life expectancy. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in its 2007 clinical report titled "The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds," urged doctors to advocate for active free play as an essential part of every child's physical health.
A 2004 study by Frances Kuo and Andrea Taylor, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that play and other activities conducted in green outdoor settings significantly reduced the symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. The number of children diagnosed with attention problems has skyrocketed in recent years.
Free play is the engine of learning in childhood — a vital force in children's cognitive, social, and emotional development. Providing rich and stimulating outdoor environments for children to play is important.
The Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights was developed by the California Roundtable on Recreation, Parks and Tourism and has this objective: Every child in California, by the completion of their 14th year, should have the opportunity to experience each of these activities:
More information at http://calroundtable.org/Copy_of_cobor.htm.
While the concept of environmental justice grew out of the disproportionate placement of harmful facilities (dumps, refineries, toxic sites) near people of color and of below average incomes, it applies here, too: the absence of positive things, like parks, can also be harmful. Communities need nearby parks to enjoy many of the benefits described in this section.
Research findings (Godbey and Mowen: The Benefits of Physical Activity: The Scientific Evidence) also show that children who live close to public parks and recreation facilities are more likely to be active. Given the huge challenge of obesity facing so many children, particularly children of color, anything that increases active living is a matter of justice, as well as of health. Public parks also provide a pathway to enrichment programs that are more easily available to more well-off communities, such as special camps, gyms, and private sports activities.
Critical to addressing environmental justice is the development of a positive sense of community. Parks can beautify areas of blight. Parks serve as grand meeting places of diverse populations. Engaging with all of our diversity on a regular basis is something that nearby parks can easily offer — and all of society benefits as the bonds of citizenship grow through these interactions.
California, as one of the nation's most diverse states, contains parks that are actively used to celebrate cultural heritages. Memorials about the park sites themselves, with stories placed into interpretive facilities, public art, and interpretive programs, show the depth of California's diverse heritage.
The festivals and celebrations of all types that take place in parks represent important cultural assets. From birthday parties and weddings, to national and international holidays, to festivals and special performances, parks embody California's collective culture.
Parks that provide for a variety of cultural expressions represent places where residents come together to learn about their own heritage and the heritages of their community.
California's human history extends back centuries. Parks can preserve the landscapes and artifacts of this lineage. Whether following a guide book on a trail, listening to a docent or ranger explain a feature, or just taking in history by sight, parks play a strong role in preserving a roadmap to the state's communities, economies, and ecology.
One cannot travel far in California before seeing a local park, a regional reserve, a national forest or park, or many other types of the state's protected open lands. These lands represent more than just play spaces or scenic wonders — they are strong economic contributors:
|City, County and Regional Parks (12,000)||$10 billion||196,000|
|State Parks (630, includes all state agencies)||$4.3 billion||56,000|
|Federal Parks (500, includes all federal agencies)||$7.1 billion||61,000|
|Average Total Per Year||$21.4 billion||313,000|
Another important benefit of parks includes the protection of natural resources needed for all life. Protection roles include:
The natural resource value of parks becomes more important every year as the press of population growth challenges landscapes and natural systems. This growth is now projected at 20 percent over the next quarter century. (California Department of Finance)
The future of wetlands is a critical matter; therefore, each SCORP includes priorities for wetlands.
California's Wetland Conservation Policy mandates "no overall net loss and a long-term net gain in the quantity, quality, and permanence of wetland acreage". As such, wetlands are protected by many federal and state laws, regulations and policies to prevent further degradation and destruction.
The California Wetland Monitoring Workgroup includes federal, state and local agencies working to "coordinate monitoring activities, establish priorities, resolve existing inconsistencies, and facilitate communication among agencies and with wetlands conservation stakeholders." This included development of the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) (www.cramwetlands.org) and the California EcoAtlas (www.ecoatlas.org).
Acquisition and wetlands restoration funding needs greatly outweigh resources available — for example, the State Coastal Conservancy estimated the cost for major wetland projects planned and designed in San Francisco Bay and Southern California alone to be at least $2 billion.
This question was central in the development of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. The response encompasses two measurements:
Which neighborhoods have no park within a half mile?
To determine which residents have parks within walking distance in their neighborhoods, this plan utilizes the standard established in the 1960 California Public Outdoor Recreation Plan that a park should exist within a half mile of neighborhoods, especially to serve "low mobility" residents due to age, income, or physical condition.
Which areas fall short of the standard of more than three park acres per 1,000 residents?
Legislation passed in 2008 enacted the Statewide Park Program (Public Resources Code §5642) that defined underserved communities as having a ratio of less than three acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. An area of 50,000 population, for example, would be classified as underserved if it had fewer than 150 acres of parks. This measure is important because it identifies areas where surrounding population density may overwhelm limited park space.
In surveys by State Parks, 72% of Californians say they walk to parks they most frequently use. This underscores the SCORP focus on the importance of nearby community parks, and is a key factor in how parks can help address health needs.
This assessment marks the first time statewide comprehensive GIS technology identifies park acreage down to the neighborhood level. No other state has a GIS system of all local, state, and federal parks combined with demographic information that pinpoints parks in communities. This new GIS system helps policy makers, park planners, and the public to assess park space.
The primary findings from this analysis for California indicate:
62% of Californians live in areas with less than 3 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, a recognized standard for adequate parks
9 million people do not have a park within a half mile of their home
These findings provide a broad overview of the availability of park acreage within residential areas throughout the state, and are not intended to be definite for any particular community's situation. Areas That Are Underserved by Parks
GIS analysis of each census tract in California assessed how many acres of parkland existed per 1,000 residents. Using a standard of 3 park acres per 1,000 residents, tracts were ranked as noted below. This measurement is a starting point for statewide assessment, and should be used as a point of departure for more detailed review in any community.
For this statewide analysis, California State Parks chose census tracts as the area against which to assess the amount of existing parkland in comparison to the 3 acres/1,000 population metric. Census tracts vary in population size, but average approximately 4,000 persons. Note that in some situations, additional parkland may lie at the edge of or very close to of a particular tract, a condition not measured by this analysis.
To obtain detailed information about all communities statewide, park planners and other interested parties can use web mapping tools available through www.parks.ca.gov/SCORP.
Illustrations of each of these tools are on the following pages.
Uses: This tool screens for areas that may not meet state recommended standard of 3 park acres per 1,000 residents. Users can evaluate park need areas in every jurisdiction of the state. This web tool provides choices of city, county, legislative districts, etc.
Method: Evaluates census tracts for park acres per 1,000 residents.
Metrics for area of analysis shown:
Uses: This tool focuses on areas that lack nearby parks and can be used to guide future park planning.
Method: Defines a half mile radius around all parks in state to determine park area availability.
Metrics for area of analysis shown:
Uses: Evaluates the need for parks in immediate areas, based on analysis of a half mile radius to identify a potential project site. FactFinder also supports administration of grant programs.
Methods: Uses CPAD and census data to create analysis of park availability and population profile.
Metrics for area shown:
CaliParks.org is a web mapping application that lets anyone find parks in California, and tracks social media posts in parks. It's designed for use on smart phones and to help those who may not yet be fully connected to parks to become more engaged in using them. CaliParks.org is a next-generation parks finder, complementing www.ParkInfo.org which was also used in FindRecreation on the Calif. State Parks web site.
Uses: General public, with a focus on those who are motivated by social media.
Methods: Application developed by Stamen Design, with support from GreenInfo Network and HipCamp, based on CPAD parks data. Funding support from Resources Legacy Fund.
A recent survey of parks directors across the state showed—by a large margin—an unmet need for maintaining parks due to a deferred maintenance backlog.
Results of the recent State Parks survey of attitudes toward recreation also reflect a desire for safe, well-maintained parks and programs offered in parks.
To improve the use of parks, both facility and program needs must be considered. Addressing these problems requires the active engagement of residents who are in the best position to understand the conditions that lead to the degradation of their parks. Successful collaborations among parks departments, public health and public safety agencies, housing and urban development departments, local nonprofit organizations, and civic-minded businesses and citizens can make the difference in revitalizing parks.
Although new parks are important, the use and maintenance of existing parks is also critical. As part of the SCORP, OGALS surveyed park agency directors throughout California. A total of 295 directors (approximately 40%) participated in the survey. These directors cited their agency's most important unmet need:
The department conducted extensive research including its Survey on Public Opinions and Attitudes on Outdoor Recreation in California (SPOA). This survey included online and phone responses from 5,421 adults and 410 young people, ages 12–17. Here's what Californians think about parks (the interactive survey results are at parks.ca.gov/SPOA):
For California youth:
This SCORP proposes that the network of parks agencies and advocates in California share their greatest achievements and solutions through the establishment of a special clearinghouse. The clearinghouse will foster understanding and the application of successful practices in these key areas:
The following pages illustrate how sharing stories can help agencies find solutions to challenges facing parks in California.
Getting meaningful engagement from park users at the start of park planning is a key to community based planning. Residents who live and work in a community understand their park and recreation needs. Projects designed with honest community input yield more successful, practical, safe, popular parks that become a source of community pride. A plan created with residents in the community generates institutional memory, allowing good plans to endure and evolve. OGALS‘ recent Prop. 84 competitive grant program also showed that requiring robust community engagement establishes clear expectations and leads to better projects that are most responsive to community needs.
Park agencies have used a variety of strategies to supplement limited resources, such as fundraisers, partnerships with sports leagues and non-profit organizations, "adopt-a-park", and weekend clean-up programs. Success stories can include strategies for maximizing existing parks, reusing school facilities, and recruiting volunteers to assist with on-going responsibilities.
Success stories are powerful motivators for learning the most effective way to maximize park resources. The California Department of Parks and Recreation is establishing the California Parks "Success Stories" Clearinghouse, and invites all park agencies and organizations to contribute stories. Here's what to do:
Success stories will be featured at www.parks.ca.gov/SCORP — learn more about submitting success stories on this site.
OGALS gained experience through its interactions with local agency grantees from the 2000 and 2002 Bond Act programs. These earlier interactions enabled OGALS to foster new community planning strategies that became integral to the Statewide Park Program.
Community based planning creates an environment for real community input and influence. This strategy to engage residents in the project design process arose from a combination of comments from nine hundred park professionals at twenty focus groups and public hearings conducted by OGALS:
Due to the state's current drought, the likely long-term effects of climate change, and increasing costs of water and energy, innovative examples of conservation techniques and sustainable design are sought. These examples can outline how local park agencies educate the public about how sustainable designs can be used in homes, gardens and businesses.
Parks can serve as a "one-stop shop" for youth mentoring, parent education, senior wellness, sports and physical training, performing arts, and health and nutrition programs. Some agencies partner or collaborate with other community service providers to provide programs in parks. The Success Stories Clearinghouse will include innovative program examples that have proven to change lives.
Additional successes can arise from a variety of practices such as: making parks safer; innovative facilities and technology; community art in parks; partnerships; management practices; creating recreational trails and greenways to provide active transportation corridors from neighborhoods to parks, schools, and workplaces.
For 150 years, Californians have invested in their parks. Statewide bond acts, annual budgeted expenditures, philanthropic gifts, creative real estate ventures, federal funds, local special taxes and fees — have built 14,000 parks and open space preserves throughout the state. Since 2000, this investment totals over $4 billion — equal to about $100 per resident.
In the last 15 years, California's voters have authorized the following major investments, which have helped address growing needs, illustrated in the chart of bond acts below.
Proposition 12 (2000) provided $780 million for local parks, with other funding for larger parks, forests, open space, water quality and other investments.
Proposition 40 (2002) was similar to Prop. 12, but devoted $946 million for local parks, out of the $2.6 billion authorized by the bond.
Proposition 84 (2006) was strongly aimed at water quality and flood control needs, but provided $457 million for local parks, and other funding for other land conservation.
In addition to these major statewide bond measures, local governments and regional agencies have secured passage of a wide range of special taxes and fees, mostly through ballot measures at the city, county or regional level, raising hundreds of millions for local parks.
The most recent illustration of this investment includes the $368 million Statewide Park Program funded through the Proposition 84 Bond Act of 2006. This program was the largest state grant program in the United States, providing funds for 100 new parks in areas of high need.
OGALS received $2.9 billion in grant requests through 900 applications from Statewide Park Program applicants. All of the $368 million of program funding has now been committed to park projects.
While local park taxes, fees and other support has been considerable, two types of statewide funds that aid the nearly 1,000 park-related agencies in California have remained a primary source of new parks: Block Grants (awarded to city/county/districts, usually based on population) and Competitive Grants (awarded by merit for specific categories).
Strengths: Allocations reach a wide range of jurisdictions — the Per Capita Program (Proposition 40/2002 Bond Act) provided funds to 770 local park agencies. Flexibility of these funds given to local agencies allows high priority maintenance items to be addressed.
Issues: Per capita funds are spread thinly across the state — recent program provided grants averaging $150,000 per project. Non-profit organizations and conservancies were not eligible to apply. Per capita grants do not require applicants to follow statewide SCORP priorities.
Strengths: Grant awards shaped by SCORP priorities or legislative priorities. Average amounts are higher and outcomes likely more substantial (average for the Statewide Park Program was $2.9 million per grant, which led to over 100 new parks).
Issues: Competitive grants cannot fund all applications, as only 10 percent were funded through recent Statewide Park Program — of 900 applications asking for $2.9 billion.
The Office of Grants and Local Services (OGALS) within the California Department of Parks and Recreation serves local agencies and nonprofit organizations. Since 1964, 20,000 grants administered by OGALS created or improved more than 7,400 parks.
Since 2000, OGALS has:
Major funding sources for OGALS grants have been statewide park, water and natural resources bond measures, when available. Among many other smaller programs, OGALS administers annual Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funds from the National Park Service, the Habitat Conservation Fund ($2 million/yr.), and the Recreational Trails Program (up to $4 million, depending on Congressional action).
a. Establish educational outreach and partnerships to inform decision-makers at all levels (including foundations, health providers, and other potential funders) about why parks improve the quality of life for communities.
a. Develop a pilot program through a health and recreation sector partnership designed to improve community wellness. Monitor and report measurable outcomes including a cost-benefit analysis.
b. Inform decision-makers and other key opinion leaders about unfunded deferred maintenance needs reported by agency directors.
a. Inform local agency park planners how to use new GIS tools featured in the 2015 SCORP to scan their jurisdiction for areas that need parks.
b. Encourage park agencies to report the creation of new parks or to correct existing CPAD data using a defined reporting procedure.
c. Every five years, evaluate progress made towards increasing park access by updating the CPAD data inventory and associated GIS technology tools.
a. Encourage park development within a half mile of park deficient neighborhoods to provide easier access.
b. Utilize federal grants to create new recreational trails and greenways to provide active transportation corridors from neighborhoods to parks, schools, and workplaces.
c. Create and expand programs that transport urban residents to larger regional, State, and Federal parks to experience California's incredible natural and historic legacy.
a. Launch an online clearinghouse where California's park and recreation agencies and advocates can share innovative solutions. Success story categories will include community based planning, sustainable park design for water and energy conservation, operation and maintenance, recreation programs, and miscellaneous.
b. Provide access to all partner agencies. Encourage agencies to submit descriptions and pictures of success stories to the California Parks Success Stories Clearinghouse established by the Department. (See www.parks.ca.gov/SCORP)
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a Federal program established in 1964 to provide matching grants for both recreation and natural resource conservation. Section 6(f)(3) of the LWCF Act helps ensure that parkland acquired or developed by the program remains in outdoor recreation use in perpetuity. LWCF also funds the SCORP development. This SCORP's LWCF action plan sets Project Selection Criteria priorities to be detailed in the LWCF Application Guides for local and state agencies (see www.parks.ca.gov/grants_lwcf)
a. Create new parks within a half mile of underserved communities;
b. Expand existing parks to increase the ratio of park acreage per resident in underserved areas;
c. Renovate or create new outdoor facilities within existing parks not currently under 6(f)(3) protection;
d. Provide community space for healthy lifestyles, children's play areas, environmental justice, cultural activities, historic preservation;
e. Engage community residents during the project concept and design process.
a. Create new wetlands where they previously existed and have been destroyed.
b. Acquire existing but unprotected wetlands to hold in public trust.
c. Restore, where needed, the quality of existing wetlands owned by public agencies.
d. LWCF grants for wetlands will include public access for recreation and educational opportunities.
a. Encourage a higher number of project applications.
b. Increase the total amount requested per each competitive cycle, enabling California to recommend the most viable projects and to use all LWCF funds available to California.
a. Develop a web mapping tool to track and demonstrate the importance of LWCF to California.
Online access to the SCORP: www.parks.ca.gov/SCORP
This website brings the plan alive by including updates to further expand upon planning efforts. The SCORP is also available through www.parks.ca.gov/SCORP.
General inquiries about the SCORP: email@example.com
Email success stories to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Email CPAD parks database updates to: email@example.com
OGALS is a full-service organization dedicated to developing grant programs, administering funds, providing technical assistance, and building partnerships.
This report was written and designed by OGALS in collaboration with GreenInfo Network (www.greeninfo.org), a nonprofit that supports other public groups and agencies with geospatial technology, and Ison Design.
Photography by Brian Baer, Senior Photographer, California State Parks
OGALS wishes to thank the following representatives for their participation to develop this 2015 SCORP: