Department of Parks and Recreation
The Department operates the state park system to preserve and protect the state’s most valued natural, cultural, and historical resources. The park system includes 280 parks, beaches, trails, wildlife areas, open spaces, off‐highway vehicle areas, and historic sites. The Budget includes $589 million ($117.5 million General Fund) and 3,547 positions for the Department.
Continued Strengthening of State Park System
The Administration is continuing to take actions that strengthen the state parks
system, improve visitors’ experiences, and make the services provided by the state
parks system more relevant to a broader and more diverse group of people. Last year, the Administration established a transformation team to develop and lead the Department in executing structural and sustainable reforms. This effort focuses on the budget, maximizing partnerships, improving internal practices, setting up a structure for more innovative revenue generation opportunities, developing an outside support entity,
and better identifying programs for broader populations and diverse communities.
A number of initiatives have been developed and implemented, consistent with the recommendations of the Parks Forward Commission. This independent commission performed an assessment of the financial, cultural, and operational challenges facing State Parks.
• New Path to Park Leadership—In May 2015, the Department secured the approval of the State Personnel Board for a new civil service classification which now allows individuals from broad professional backgrounds, including those outside
of state government, to compete to serve as top leaders throughout the state parks system. Previously, only peace officers could serve in these positions. Now, nearly 25 percent of the top Parks leaders in the field will be serving in this new classification by March 2016.
- Modernizing Fee Collection and Technology in the Parks System—Last year,
the Department installed technology allowing visitors to use credit and debit cards
at more state parks. Visitors can now pay for parking fees using smartphones.
The Department has also been exploring more robust technology that will serve as the new statewide parks reservation system and anticipates awarding a contract to a vendor by spring 2016.
- Enhancing Information on the Parks System—Last year, the Department began providing panoramic images of trails in state parks over the internet. Through this ongoing effort, images are available for over half of the state parks. This includes all state parks along the California coast, trails throughout the system, and at
the entire Bodie State Historic Park. The increased information allows visitors to view state park trails in advance of a trip and allows those with limited mobility
to experience trails. The Department also expanded its Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) program to now include the immigration station at Angel Island State Park. This long‐distance learning program utilizes video conferencing to connect Parks interpretive staff at nine state parks to K‐12 classrooms throughout the state, serving over 40,000 students annually including schools in underserved communities. Through the program, children learn about topics such as immigration, climate change, and the importance of protecting natural resources.
- New Budget Tool and Organization Structure—Two essential initiatives of the transformation team’s efforts are completing a Service‐Based Budgeting tool and recommending an update to the organization structure. These two initiatives complement each other and will articulate the services that can be provided at various funding levels and how the Department will best deliver those services. With philanthropic funds, the Department secured the assistance of a consulting group to help develop these initiatives.
The Budget includes several proposals that build on these existing efforts.
This proposal supports the Administration’s commitment to pay down debt while maintaining existing service levels across the entire state parks system, including the OHV Program. The transformation team will continue to identify improvements for the Department’s long‐term fiscal viability.
- Deferred Maintenance—An increase of $60 million General Fund for high‐priority deferred maintenance projects in the state parks system. This is part of the deferred maintenance proposal in the Statewide Issues Chapter.
- Outreach to Urban Communities—An increase of $690,000 State Park Protection Fund and 3 positions for a two‐year pilot project to implement a community liaison project within the two largest urban population centers in the state,
Los Angeles and the Bay Area. These liaisons will work with community‐based organizations and nonprofit groups to create culturally relevant interpretive and environmental programs. The Department also is working to secure philanthropic support to augment the resources for this project and initiate efforts in the current year.