The California State Parks Foundation is calling on lawmakers to restore funding for the Library Parks Pass

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California State Parks Foundation responded to Governor Newsom's revised 2024-2025 budget by raising concerns about eliminating funding for a popular state park access program, the California State Library Parks Pass.

“We are extremely concerned about the Governor’s proposal to end this highly effective and popular free access program to California state parks,” said Rachel Norton, executive director of the California State Parks Foundation. “The California State Library Parks Pass is critical to our state’s goal of creating a healthier, more equitable California for all.”

The California State Library Parks Pass gives library cardholders free day-use vehicle access at over 200 participating state parks. Since the program's inception, 33,000 California State Library Parks Passes have been issued at more than 1,100 public libraries. Libraries report that these cards are among the most frequently borrowed items.

However, the Newsom administration will continue the popular California State Park Adventure Pass, which gives fourth-graders and their families living in the state free access to 54 parks for a full year. It also continues the revised Golden Bear Pass program, which makes it easier for families receiving CalWORKs, individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income, income-eligible Californians over age 62, and participants in California's Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to receive them a free annual pass for daily vehicle use, valid at over 200 participating state parks. Since the 2021 redesign, more than 63,000 families have received a Golden Bear Pass.

“Entrance fees or parking fees can be a financial burden for many residents, particularly those with lower incomes,” Norton continued. “The cost of admission can prevent people from experiencing the natural wonders of these parks, thereby excluding them from the many physical and mental health benefits, educational opportunities and recreational activities that these places offer.” These initiatives close this gap and should be a priority .”

Governor Newsom’s “California for All” vision emphasizes equity in all government programs. As part of this vision, the California Natural Resources Agency's recently completed Outdoors for All framework sets goals for expanding parks in communities lacking outdoor space, supporting access programs, and fostering a sense of belonging for all Californians outdoors. In 2021, Governor and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom championed all three passport pilot programs to make progress on these ambitious plans.

Last year, the California State Parks Foundation released compelling survey data highlighting the success of the California State Library Parks Pass program. The survey provided the following key insights that demonstrate the impact and importance of the program:

  • A majority of respondents (63%) previously viewed cost as the main reason they had not previously visited state parks.
  • Thanks to the Park Pass program, an incredible 90% of respondents now plan to visit state parks more than seven times per year.
  • Nearly 70% of survey participants reported an income level of $60,000 or less.
  • Over 63% of respondents reported that they are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).

“It is incomprehensible that the California State Library Parks Pass would lose its funding after all the hard work in creating and managing this popular program and the documented success in achieving a key policy goal of the Newsom administration,” he said Norton. “The California State Parks Foundation and grassroots activists from across the state will urge lawmakers to restore this funding as the budget process continues.”

The California State Parks Foundation is calling on lawmakers to return $3 million for the California State Library Parks Pass program, about 50% of current funding levels.

Additionally, the California State Parks Foundation is calling on lawmakers to prioritize funding to improve the state parks system's resilience to climate change. As highlighted in the California State Parks Foundation's recent report on climate change and state parksBy 2100, sea level rise could cause up to 75% of California's beaches to disappear. As stewards of nearly a quarter of California's coastline, California State Parks is at the forefront of adapting to sea level rise.

“These budget cuts underscore the need for a climate bond in November that funds these important priorities for Californians,” Norton continued. “California’s state parks are at risk from the climate crisis and time is running out to protect them. We need bold action to create a climate-resilient state park system.”

Despite huge budget surpluses in 2021 and 2022, California state parks received almost no funding for climate adaptation and resiliency. In the most recent revision in May, Governor Newsom proposed cutting the few remaining funds to address the state's budget crisis.

Californians can raise their voices in support of funding the California State Library Parks Pass here and to support climate financing for California state parks here.

Anna Harden

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