After months of work, dozens of hearings, and reams of data crunched, the Parks Forward Commission released their final report on Friday. The report makes six basic recommendations to move California State Parks beyond permanent crisis, to a brighter future.
- Create a dedicated transformation team.
- Open pathways to leadership.
- Create a statewide nonprofit strategic partner with resources not currently available from existing park partners to undertake projects in coordination with the Department .
- Prioritize necessary support to protect the system’s natural and cultural resources for future generations .
- Expand park access for California’s underserved communities and urban populations and engage California’s younger generations .
- Establish a stable funding structure for California parks that includes a robust revenue generation strategy and a dedicated, reliable source of public funding .
It’s not the first report to make many of these recommendations, but hopefully the last as the time has come to focus on implementation.
It was no accident that the Commission put the issue of opening up multiple pathways to leadership up front. To me it’s the central issue that State Parks is facing and without change in this area, the park system will continue to fall short. Over the past 30 years, leadership in parks has narrowed and been focused on law enforcement and peace officer training. Don’t get me wrong, public safety in parks is critical. But securing and maintaining a peace officer certification is costly and takes hours each year. It also narrows the pool of people drawn to park leadership. Opening up leadership to those with backgrounds in natural resources, recreation and the like, will strengthen parks and be the key to unlocking the other changes.
Too often when I have camped at a State Park, the only time I see the Ranger is when they drive around in their police vehicle a the end of the day. I will know the Commission Report has been successful when the Ranger walks around and invites me to the campfire talk they’re giving later that evening.