Commentary: State parks: The next 150 years
by Sen. Bill Monning
Jul 31, 2014 | 3530 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Natural beauty, open spaces, and history are just a few reasons why we love our parks. The sense of stepping into the past or the thrill of pushing one’s limits with Mother Nature are feelings hard to describe or put a price on, but for generations it has been these feelings that have kept our parks alive.

As California commemorates the 150th anniversary of our vast state park system, it is critical that foresight to the next 150 years is kept in mind.

Currently, the state manages approximately 280 park properties or units, which consists of maintaining historic structures and trails, preserving wildlife, and providing a variety of tourist and recreational services for all to enjoy.

Many state parks sit on the scenic coastline, ensuring that views and access to our oceans are not limited to a few. Many provide access to historic treasures, a fundamental mission of the parks.

Yet, with dollars stretched thin and an ever-growing and changing state, how can we continue to strengthen our parks for the future?

One way is to use our parks to achieve positive gains in education. For example, it has been shown that children have an affinity for environmental education, so think what could happen if our youth had more frequent lessons in our state parks instead of annual field trips.

With the right infusion of core learning, like math, science, and history, this could produce tremendous gains in a child’s ability to retain knowledge in a fun, new way.

State parks can also play a role in the state’s health policy goals. We know all too well that obesity is a health epidemic in California and many people point to a lack of physical activity as a contributing factor. With miles of trails and historical sites to explore, state parks are excellent inducements to physical activity.

Parks are not the silver bullet to address this complex public health battle, but they can be a tool to encourage positive health outcomes.

Besides the obvious of putting aside land for preservation, state parks allow people to create a connection with the environment that can last a lifetime. A stronger appreciation of our environment by all Californians will help to effectively implement the conservation goals and policies enacted in Sacramento and at a local level.

If we want our state parks to grow and prosper, then we need to see our parks as active partners in fulfilling broader policy goals. By working together, we can explore new possibilities for California’s state parks and ensure they shine for the next 150 years.

- State Sen. Bill Monning represents California's 17th State Senate district, which includes all of Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo counties, as well as large portions of Santa Clara and Monterey counties.

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