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Creativity and a Commitment to Service Abounds in the Volunteers in Parks Program During the Pandemic

By Rachel Young, Volunteer in Parks Program Specialist
Every year, tens-of-thousands of talented and passionate California State Park volunteers contribute over one million hours of service in support of the parks they love. The closure of parks due to COVID-19 has resulted in a temporary “pause” of most volunteer programs and a unique challenge for both volunteers and volunteer coordinators. In this unique time in history, staff and volunteers have risen to the challenge, developing creative ways for volunteers to continue to serve and stay connected. Park staff have worked hard to ensure volunteers still feel appreciated and connected to the park and to each other using e-mail, Facebook groups, and newsletters to keep their volunteers informed and to provide information for research and educational purposes. They often include fun content such as riddles or jokes or fun trivia about individual volunteers. Volunteer trainings and meetings have moved from in person to virtual platforms such as Zoom and Skype, which have provided volunteers with educational opportunities and a chance to connect with each other.

Some notable examples include:
  • At Old Town San Diego SHP, volunteer coordinator, Tim Downing, created a new volunteer program newsletter for this time of shelter-in-place, The Old Town Isolationist.
  • Wilder Ranch State Park held the “Great Wilder Bake-Off,” an at-home baking competition. Volunteers chose a recipe from the Wilder Ranch State Park Cookbook and submitted photos of the finished product for other volunteers to vote on. One of the park’s youth volunteers, Nora McArdle, won the contest with her batch of delicious looking cinnamon rolls. 
  • Empire Mine SHP’s new volunteer coordinator, Brian Piazza, started in his new job just as parks were closing down. Since he did not have the opportunity to meet all of his park’s volunteers in person, he called volunteers individually to introduce himself and get to know them.
  • Parks staff made efforts to recognize volunteers during National Volunteer Week  (see story elsewhere in this newsletter). 
  • New and fun educational opportunities have been created through digital means including:
    • Tijuana Estuary’s volunteer enrichment lectures (through Zoom) with speakers from California State Parks, Fish & Wildlife, and the Reserve’s research department, as well as Lunchtime Live (on Facebook) with fun and educational topics about research, plants, birds, etc. available to volunteers and the general public;
    • Virtual Mind walks created by the San Luis Obispo Coast District, which are available on YouTube for volunteers and the general public.
  •  Many volunteers have continued to perform volunteer service for their park, finding unique ways to serve during the closures:
  •  Some camp hosts continue to serve in closed campgrounds. At Silver Strand SB, the hosts went the extra mile to clean up the beach when trash accumulated after a storm.
  • Some parks have been able to allow some gardening, maintenance, and habitat restoration volunteers continue to serve.
  •  Quarantined volunteer continue to serve from home conducting research, creating maps, working on archeological projects, and creating content for their parks’ newsletters.
  • At Anza-Borrego Desert SP, volunteer naturalist, Don Endicott, took this time to place bat sound monitoring equipment in the recently-burned palm grove to help identify when the bats return to the grove as it recovers.
  • At William B. Ide Adobe SHP, Ben Hughes, a master woodworker, created a beautiful replica of William B. Ide’s desk which he donated to the park. Once the park re-opens to the public, the desk will be on display for guests’ interaction.  
  • Brian Flynn, a talented graphic designer and volunteer in the Orange Coast District, worked alongside interpretive staff to help create presentations to enrich Crystal Cove SP’s online educational materials.  These included the Nature’s Jewels PowerPoint and Earth Day Jeopardy which can be viewed at
  • Old Town San Diego SHP’s crafts guild, quilters, fiber arts guild, and spinners have been making items for the park’s museums as well as items to be sold in the Park Store (one crafter noted that she has made enough tortilla warmers to stock the store for a decade!) Volunteers throughout the state have been hard at work making masks for their park’s staff as well as members of their community. Old Town’s “Mask Brigade” has made over 400 masks to date.  Volunteer seamstresses from Marshal Gold SHP have been making masks for park staff as well as for the local medical center.
State Park’s amazing volunteers are also helping each other by bringing groceries to fellow volunteers who are unable to shop, driving fellow volunteers to appointments, and providing other support to each other as needed. Our volunteers can also be found serving their local communities by making quilts and blankets for children in need, serving at a local homeless outreach food kitchen, and so much more.

California State Parks truly has the most wonderful volunteers and excellent volunteer coordinators, and their passion for the parks and care for each other has shone brightly during this pandemic. We cannot wait for our parks to reopen and our volunteers to return once it is safe for them to do so.



By Justine Kardad, Volunteer in Parks Program Analyst

The State Parks Partnerships Division is proud to announce the launch in early June of its Instagram and Facebook social media channels. With the social media world vastly growing as a tool to stay connected, creating California State Parks Partnerships Division social media channels couldn’t have come at a better time.

Many use Instagram and Facebook daily, whether to post personal photos, visit a favorite recipe site, catch up on the news, or stream a funny dog video. Having this technology at our fingertips has made accessing information easier than ever.

Our objective for the Partnerships social media channels is to disseminate information that will assist in promoting the Partnership Division and its three programs: Concessions, Nonprofits, and Volunteers.

Partnerships social media will bring a face to our partners, so followers can learn more about them, what they do and how they enhance State Parks. Additionally, we want to create a dynamic outreach presence using social media to promote communication, dialogue and engagement between State Parks, our partners, and the public. 
These social media channels will be a resource for our partners, enabling access to information that will assist their role. We’ll also utilize them to introduce you to the employees in the Partnerships Division that serve our partners.

Along with sharing important information about our partners during these unprecedented pandemic times and beyond, we also plan to utilize these channels to reach our partners and the public and share important State Parks information. So stay tuned. 

Look for us on Facebook at "California State Parks Partnerships Division" and on Instagram at "CA State Parks Partnerships."

Reminder to Submit Reports

Public Sector Operators
Please review your operating agreements to ensure you have submitted all required reports. As applicable to your specific agreement, reports may include:
  • Revenue and Expenditure reports for the period of July 1 through June 30 are due the following September 30
  • Attendance Reports
  • Report of Operation (indicating amount due to the State)

Cooperating Associations

Cooperating association annual reports (DPR 973) are to be submitted online at If your organization renewed its Cooperating Association agreement within the last two years, the annual reports are now due within 15 days of submitting reports to the IRS. If your organization received an extension from the IRS, the DPR 973 report will be due within 15 days after IRS extension deadline.


Concessionaire Financial Statements (DPR 86) for most concession contracts were due May 1 for the prior calendar year reporting period.  Due to COVID-19 and subsequent IRS extensions, the Department recognizes there may be delays in obtaining the reports; however, it’s important concessionaires notify their park districts if they are submitting late reports, and when they anticipate those reports will be submitted. 


Managing Concessions During COVID-19

By David M. Block, Concession Specialist

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the way concessionaires conduct business in California State Parks, with many concessionaires shuttering their operations due to state park closures. Many concessionaires must revise their business strategies, amid taking care of their employees and navigating the process of applying for financial assistance.

Across the country, the story is the same. According to a survey of outdoor recreation businesses, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) found that 25% of those businesses suspended all operations, with an additional 54% indicating that a portion of business has been suspended.[1]

There is a detrimental economic impact from COVID-19 on California State Parks, as state parks normally support thousands of jobs which contribute to economic activity throughout the state. According to a study by the OIA, 691,000 jobs and $6.2 billion in state and local tax revenue were created by outdoor recreation in California in 2017.[2] To what extent these contributions will diminish as a result of COVID-19 remains to be seen.

There is hope for the future of park concessionaires, however. As stay-at-home orders are relaxed the many people eager to return to parks as their natural places of peace and respite will provide concessionaires the opportunity to serve park visitors again. Parks play a critical role in improving mental health, and concessionaires assist that role by helping park users enjoy their parks to their utmost potential. As the state navigates its way to re-opening safely, California State Parks continues to work with outdoor recreation leaders to develop and implement guidelines that will help concessionaires resume operations and serve park users in a safe and healthy manner. Below are resources and information regarding outdoor recreation and operating/reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.


State Parks Mark National Volunteer Week

By Dennis Weber, Volunteers in Parks Program Manager
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, State Parks and its volunteer coordinators worked to recognize our amazing volunteers for all they do to support state parks during National Volunteer Week, April 19-25. Thank you to the volunteers working hard to preserve our most treasured places and teach the public about their value. In a way, every week is Volunteer Week.
The Volunteers in Parks Program (VIPP) took the opportunity to post a special message on its website, but coordinators around the state got more creative. Here are some other examples:

Bay Area District: Volunteer Coordinator Joleen Ossello (pictured above) took volunteers on a visit to familiar locations. Check out the video of her Appreciation Walk for VIPP:  See the video here.

San Luis Obispo Coast District: Volunteer Coordinator Robyn Chase (pictured Above) and staff thanked volunteers. See the video here.
Many volunteer coordinators and partners, such as Friends of Sutter’s Fort, sent messages of gratitude to mark the week. (These are just few efforts of which we were made aware.)
National Volunteer Week is sponsored by the nonprofit Points of Light Foundation, a program started by President George H. Bush. You can learn more about the event and foundation here.

At last count, in California more than 44,000 individuals volunteer with nearly 9,000 considered long-term or regular volunteers. These dedicated volunteers contributed more than 1.1 million hours of service. Volunteers serve in many roles including working on maintenance projects, serving as camp hosts, patrolling trails, helping with natural and cultural stewardship, performing administrative support roles, assisting with special events and often providing the first smiling face greeting visitors upon entering a park. 
State Parks volunteers provide interpretation, act as hosts, work in maintenance and as camp hosts, patrol trails, help with natural and cultural stewardship, perform administrative support roles, assist with special events and are often the first smiling face greeting visitors upon entering a park.
Thank you to each and every one of our volunteers for your understanding and patience during this challenging time. We may be experiencing an extraordinary situation, but together we are an extraordinary community of volunteers and professionals who not only care for the parks, but care for each other. We at the Volunteers in Parks Program, and all of State Parks, are grateful for your service.

The VIPP would also like to thank all of our employees who serve as volunteer coordinators and cooperating association partners, working with our volunteers to lead, teach, guide and ensure our volunteer program creates a mutually valuable experience for State Parks and our volunteers.

Dockwalker Training Program Adapts to COVID-19 Changes and Launches Virtual Classes for Volunteers

By Vivian Matuk, Interpretation and Education Office and California Coastal Commission

Annual Spring Clean and Green Boating Dockwalker trainings throughout the state launched as usual beginning in early March. Just two sessions into the 10 scheduled events, the stay-at-home order brought about a quick retooling and launch of virtual classes.

The Boating Clean and Green team faced this COVID-19 challenge, and like everyone in our department, it adjusted its programs to deliver our work. Thanks to our Interpretation and Education Office and Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) staff, we were able to train more than 100 Dockwalkers.

Dockwalker volunteers engage members of the boating community about clean boating practices. Since the year 2000, more than 1,000 Dockwalkers have taught 10,000 boaters about oil, fuel, sewage, trash and marine debris prevention at marinas. For more information, please visit the Dockwalker webpages at

The California Dockwalker program is provided as a partnership between the California Coastal Commission and the State Parks' Interpretation and Education Office under the Boating Clean and Green Program. It is implemented in partnership with The Bay Foundation and many other organizations throughout the state.

Cleaning, Disinfection and Physical Distancing Best Practices for Park Partners

By Sasha Tokas and Kellie Weikle, Concessions Specialists

As California State Parks adjusts to the new reality presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are steps our park partners can take to ensure the health and safety of their employees and the public. Steps include carefully planned sanitation and physical distancing practices as our parks reopen.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a set of guidelines that businesses can follow to facilitate the reopening of public spaces. The guidelines require businesses to develop a plan for cleaning and disinfection, implement the plan and consistently maintain and revise the plan. Disinfection should focus on surfaces touched frequently by multiple people daily: doorknobs, light switches, faucets and sinks, toilets, handles, tables, countertops, menus, hard-backed chairs, desks, remote controls, keyboards, phones, tablets, touch screens, etc.
Physical distancing is recommended by the CDC. Some examples of physical distancing include keeping a distance of 6 feet from others and avoiding handshakes or hugging. There are simple alternatives to these actions that can be implemented in our daily lives. We can step aside to let people pass and maintain the recommended spacing, wave hello from a distance and prop open doors during business hours. By implementing these changes, we can beat the virus!
Please visit the following links for more information:


Resilience at work: Preparing For Sustained Success

By Stephen Bechtel Fund
Nonprofit organizational resilience is necessary in surviving uncertain times. Click here  to explore the organizational capacities that matter most during a changing landscape.


Parks California Has a New Strategic Plan

By Potrero Group
We are excited to share that the Parks California board of directors approved its three-year strategic plan, built with the support of Potrero Group, with its new mission statement:

“As California State Parks' statutory partner, we have a simple mission—to help strengthen parks and inspire all to experience these extraordinary places.”

Congratulations to President and CEO Kindley Walsh-Lawlor and the entire Parks California staff and board of directors!


Have you revised your organization’s case for support?

By Klein and Roth Consulting
With so much attention focused on health care and safety net services, what can an organization not directly addressing frontline needs do to convey its message to existing donors and potential new supporters? In this short video, Rona Fernandez, Senior Consultant with Klein and Roth Consulting, offers some practical ideas and examples.


SORP Scholarship to Advance Partnerships

Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP) has opened its next round of the Christopher K. Jarvi Scholarship to Advance Partnerships.

Scholarships range from $500-$1,500 and may be used over the 18 months following the award. Based upon the current COVID-19 situation, SORP recommends a primary focus for this round on online training, professional memberships that provide training, as well as periodicals that expand one’s partnership knowledge. A secondary priority would be placed on in-person workshops and conferences that occur outside the next six months.

The scholarship period closes on July 31, 2020. For additional information on the scholarship, please go to:

California League of Park Associations (CALPA) Updates

During these extraordinary times, the California League of Park Associations (CALPA) has worked hard to continue its mission of supporting the nonprofit park partners of California State Parks. The organization launched the CALPA COVID-19 Impact Survey to assess the impact of the pandemic on nonprofit park partner organizations (Survey Results). In addition, beginning in April, CALPA started its own educational webinar series in parallel with those already offered to its members through the Public Lands Alliance. CALPA’s webinars are designed to focus on California specific issues and are available to members and nonmembers. Both its COVID-19 Impacts on Park Partners and COVID-19 Protocols for Reopening Visitors Centers and Retail Stores had nearly 100 attendees each. The next webinar, Fundraising During the COVID-19 Pandemic, is scheduled for June 3, 2020 at 2 PM (Register Here). Advanced registration is required, and space is limited. CALPA has also started a weekly social event called the CALPA Cocktail Campfire, where like-minded park lovers meet to support each other during this difficult time. Join us every Thursday evening 6-7 PM (Register Here). Stay tuned for more details on the 2020 CALPA Conference, which will be available online this coming October. We hope you will join us for one of our future events, and we welcome your input on how we can best support nonprofit park partners.


California State Parks has executed an operating agreement with Napa County Regional Park and Open Space (NCRPOSD) for a term of 20 years to operate three park units (Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park). The prior operating agreement with NCRPOSD was an eight-year term that allowed for the operation of two park units (Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park).
California State Parks has executed an operating agreement with The Yurok Tribe for a term of five years to operate Stone Lagoon Visitor Center at Humboldt Lagoon State Park. Check out this article highlighting this special partnership.

World Wave Expeditions, LLC dba The Camp Store will begin their new ten-year concession contract to operate the camp store at South Carlsbad State Beach on June 1, 2020. Learn more about The Camp Store here

Brats Berlin, Inc. dba Curbside Bites will begin their new one-year contract for food trucks at Silver Strand State Beach on June 1, 2020. Learn more about Curbside Bites here.
Copyright © 2020 California State Parks and Recreation: The Partnerships Division, All rights reserved.

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