Partnerships Division's "The Path Forward"

Matthew Millspaugh, Assistant Cheif, Partnerships Division

Happy Holidays! 2019 was a busy year for the Partnerships Division in which we continued to build our team and expand our efforts to enhance partnerships throughout State Parks. The Partnerships Team would like to thank you for your part in growing partnerships and all the work you do to support State Parks.

I have worked in state service for a number of years and been fortunate to be a part of many interesting projects and initiatives but I feel very lucky to have joined State Parks and the Partnerships Division. Since I joined State Parks in April I have witnessed great work being done to take our partnerships to the next level and am grateful to be part of a program supported by dedicated and passionate people.

The Partnerships program in my experience is, if not unique then a rare program within which there is true collaboration built between the State and our Partners to enhance the experiences of park visitors and support parks overall. A huge part of that collaboration this year was done with the many state staff and partners that made our training, Engaging in Partnerships, The Path Forward a success. The Partnerships team would like to thank CALPA and CPHA for their assistance with planning the training as well as all those that presented attended and provided feedback. Below are testimonials from attendees on the training. This coming year the Partnerships Division will build on the knowledge learned at Engaging in Partnerships as well as that gained from our work with partners and district staff throughout 2019 to help take our work to the next level in 2020.

We look forward to working together with you all to continue supporting our amazing State Park system. As I get the chance to meet more of you in 2020 I look forward to hearing about your favorite parks and the exciting plans you have for your programs, in the meantime please don't forget to send in your stories for us to share.

EIP Attendee Testimonials

Martin Lowenstein, Friends of China Camp

Critical information from this training is enabling me to move forward with several key projects. And having made acquaintances with academics, consultants, and State Parks leaders provided a wealth of resources for me to move forward with effective park operations management.

Ileana Maestas, CAL, Capital District

It’s always helpful to see what is happening in other districts with Concessions and Partnerships. Sometimes another district has a great idea that inspires our districts’ partnership program.


Carolyn Christian, California League of Park Associations

The Partnership Division of California State Parks hosted Engaging in Partnerships: The Path Forward. This expanded training replaced the long-standing Partnership Skill Building Training held at Asilomar each year.  The result was over 150 individuals from various organizations coming together to discuss partnerships! 

CALPA was proud to host several presentations for this training event. Pam Pesetti from the Museum Store Association presented on retail matters. Her exceptional presentation focused on the marriage of retail and interpretation with a focus on sales and profitability. In addition, CALPA invited Parks California to provide a listening session to the group. The panel from this new nonprofit partner for all state parks included Kindley Lawlor Walsh (President/CEO), Geoff Kish (VP of Programs), and Myrian Solis Coronel (Director of Community Engagement). They discussed the direction that this new nonprofit is taking and their role within the broader park partner community. Headlining the CALPA sessions was the keynote speech by Betty Sun, Program Manager for ParkRx at the Institute at Golden Gate. Her work on bringing parks to the forefront of public health and wellness discussions was inspiring.

In addition to the CALPA sponsored sessions, there were a number of other sessions that addressed the needs of the nonprofit partners of California State Parks, including the session from Dan Puskar, Executive Director of the Public Lands Alliance (PLA), a national level group that recently partnered with CALPA on an expanded membership program for its state parks nonprofit partners. The Engaging in Partnerships training featured several sessions on the nuts and bolts of nonprofit partners such as Developing Your Annual Plan, Employment Law Update, Nonprofit Park Operator Forum, Programmatic Impact, and California State Park Foundation Update. The training also featured inspirational talks like the Design Thinking model which focused on developing experiences for park visitors, Strategic Business Planning from the Potrero Group’s Cleveland Justis, Engaging the Community in Urban Parks, Building Resiliency in Park Partnerships, Enhancing Collaborative Communication, and Innovative Interpretation.
CALPA is the networking organization for California State Park's nonprofit partners. As mentioned above, CALPA has recently joined forces with the PLA to offer its members expanded benefits such as an online community, training sessions, resources library and an expanded network which includes the nonprofit partners of National Parks. For more information on the benefits of becoming a member of CALPA, please go to

Chuck Ross, California Parks Hospitality Association

The recent Engaging in Partnerships, The Path Forward training was a beneficial conference that reassured me that by coming together and discussing the common issues and problems facing all of us in parks, that together we can make a difference. Particularly interesting to me as a business partner/concessionaire was the presentation by the Potrero Group discussing Business Planning as Partners. The realization to me is that we are all stronger, and better as a team. Whether you are a lifelong parks employee, a non-profit or a business partner/concession, we all benefit when we look at the end result of what it is that we are all seeking. Parks work better when we all work better together. The key is great communication and a common understanding of where we are all headed.  "Change is uncomfortable. But not unnavigable". I believe in this statement, and also believe that we can make a bigger difference within parks if we can all follow this statement in our day to day dealings with each other within parks.


Help us welcome our newest team member

The Partnerships Division is excited to welcome Justine Kardad. She will be working with the Volunteers in Parks Program as a Program Analyst. She is also excited to help develop content and manage the Partnership Division's social media presence. Look for a friend request soon! Justine recently visited Humboldt Redwoods State Park and was blown away by the size and beauty of the trees. She says she is "proud to be working for an organization whose mission is to "preserve and protect the parks" because we are very fortunate to live in such a beautiful state."   

New Report on the Economic Impact of Nonprofits in California

California Association of Nonprofits released an update to their report, Causes Count. The report includes some interesting highlights about the nonprofit sector in California:

  • California's nonprofit sector generates over $273 billion annually or 15% of California's GDP.
  • The nonprofit sector is the 4th largest industry in the state. 
  • Volunteers contribute the equivalent of 331,058 full-time workers.
  • California's nonprofits bring over $40 billion into the state.

Learn more and download the full report here

View the latest video from Wade Crowfoot, Secretary for Natural Resources.


VC 30 class photo – Back row (left-right) Blythe Wilson, Casey Dexter-Lee, Sam Hamilton, Megan Sanchez, Joe Rogers, Luis Rincon, Paul Karz,  Ryan Spencer, Robin Echols-Booth, Silvia Braun, Patrick Russo, Maria Cox, Blair Pubols and Rachel Young.
Front row, Rouvaishyana, Dennis Weber, Ryan Bangs, Jennifer Pooley, Selene Castillo, Ianthe Jayasundera, Margie Vasquez-Cortez, Maggie Hurley, Ban Luu, Jessica Kohls.

Volunteer Coordinators Learn the Basics of a Successful Program

Dennis Weber, Volunteer In Parks Program Manager

A group of staff new to volunteer coordination, as well as a couple of veterans seeking a refresher, joined the Volunteer Coordination Training class 30 recently at the Mott Training Center.

California State Park volunteers numbered more than 44,000 in 2018 and provided more than one million hours of service in a variety of areas from administration to interpretation to trail patrol to camp hosts. More than 600 staff help coordinate our parks’ volunteer programs, and this course is a boot camp that provides important information for those frontline staff that interact with and manage our valuable volunteers.

The training included basic background knowledge such as tort liability and other legal issues as well as human rights and accessibility matters. There were also segments on public safety, risk management, and working with cooperating associations. Orange Coast District’s Blythe Wilson explained the volunteer registration process in detail. Training was provided on the new volunteer management database, Better Impact, which was rolled out earlier this year, by Volunteers in Parks Program specialist Rachel Young.

New additions to the course included new segments on using Social Media to enhance a volunteer program, managing camp hosts, and bringing diversity and inclusiveness to our volunteer ranks.

One of the highlights was a panel discussion with State Parks veteran volunteer managers Interpreter III Pat Clark-Gray from Monterey District, retired Superintendent Don Schmidt from Sierra District, Interpreter I Mike Merritt from Año Nuevo SP and Interpreter I Melissa Gobell from Point Lobos SNR. Attendees appreciated the opportunity to explore scenarios and ask senior staff for possible solutions.

Two field trips to model volunteer programs included a stop at Point Lobos SNR where Melissa and volunteers Randy May and Peter Fletcher explained the park’s sophisticated 250-docent educational operation. At a second stop at Point Sur Light Station SHP, volunteers John and Carol O’Neil provided a volunteer perspective to the relationship with State Parks. A tour to learn the secrets of the adjacent and recently declassified Cold War Naval Facility followed.

Thank you to all who presented at the training, and to training officer Sara Skinner for all your help. This actively engaged class bonded as peers, as they learned together and shared experience and resources from their own programs with their classmates throughout the week.  Thank you to all who attended for enhancing this class and helping to make the experience a success.

Regional Training at Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Angeles District staff, Partnerships Division staff and members of the California League of Park Associations, Public Lands Alliance and various Angeles District nonprofit partners met on Thursday, December 5, at the historic Adamson House to discuss district structure and updates and to train on annual planning, nonprofit governance, and management in public lands.

Fundraising Ideas

Need ideas for year-end fundraising? The software company DonorBox offers 15 Creative Winter Fundraising Ideas for 2019 that may inspire your organization’s donor engagement.


How Parks and Recreation Can Support Mental Health Initiative 

From NPRA by Barbara Heller and Molly Young

Learn about some of the ways park and recreation agencies are working with mental health experts to provide programs and services for individuals in need. 


Early Bird Gets the Worm

Brie Grossman, Partnership Analyst 

Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds is a great location for bird watching, so while we were there for the Engaging in Partnerships training we took advantage of this opportunity. The brave bunch who met before the sun came up were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise walk to the beach. Asilomar’s local bird expert, Amanda Preece, Forestry Aide, was kind enough to bring binoculars and a spotting scope which allowed us to get an up-close view of a variety of birds. She pointed out everything from the loud, orange billed Black Oystercatchers scurrying across the rocks to the Sanderlings skittering across the wet sand. Even with the limited time we had, Amanda shared so much of her passion and knowledge with us! Her enthusiasm was inspiring. I highly recommend joining the optional activities at future trainings.

Take a Virtual Tour of Mitchell Caverns 

Brie Grossman, Partnership Analyst 

Providence Mountains State Recreation Area (SRA) is found in the Eastern Mojave Desert. Its remote location makes it a challenge to visit, without proper planning. Providence Mountain SRA and the park's cooperating association, Poppy Reserve Mojave Desert Interpretation Association, teamed up with Reality Capture Experts to create a 3D virtual tour of Mitchell Caverns. This tour is an innovative way to make the main feature of their park more accessible. Trying to decide which state park to visit next? Take the 3D tour and I bet your next trip will be to the desert



  • Urban Parks Concessionaire began a new twenty-year concession contract to operate the Campground, Tent Cabins and Retail Sales at Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Pilot Contracts

  • Old Town San Diego Historic Park Interpretive Market
  • Silver Strand State Beach Mobile Food Truck



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California State Parks and Recreation: The Partnerships Division · 715 P St. · Sacramento, Ca 95814 · USA

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