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CAMTB’s CA State Parks Summary Advocacy Plan! (Revised)

****Revised on Aug 31, 2021, based on feedback and clarification received from CA State Parks leadership team. Despite what might be deemed as criticism below, CAMTB maintains an optimistic view that it can build a cooperative working relationship with CA State Parks. Early conversations with members of its executive and regional leadership teams have been promising. ***


Introduction

In March 2021, California Mountain Biking Coalition (CAMTB) commissioned an advocacy report and work plan to inform its engagement with CA State Parks for the coming years. Exploratory interviews with its Board of Directors and its Legislative & Government Affairs Working Group were conducted by Bill Keene, CAMTB’s Senior Policy Advisor. Subsequently, CAMTB held a day-long strategy session on April 23, 2021 with the same audience. The following abbreviated report highlights the output of this collective work and contains the following:

  • Summary themes from the interviews & strategy session
  • Details of CAMTB’s Advocacy Platform; and 
  • Next steps for bringing this important work to life.
Rider at Montaña de Oro State Park, near Morro Bay

Summary

CAMTB currently represents 25 California-based 501(c)3 off-road cycling advocacy organizations. Our affiliates span 8 major geographic regions, including Shasta/Cascade, Sacramento Valley, Sierra/Sierra Foothills, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern Inland, as well as the North, Central, and Southern Coast regions. Combined, CAMTB affiliates represent 15,000+ riders across the state. Of these organizations, 89% work with the California Department of Parks and Recreation to enhance trails and protect the valuable natural resources. Our discovery interviews yielded a number of interesting CA State Park management themes that are impeding our member’s ability to enhance CA State Parks trail systems for bikers, hikers, and equestrians alike. They include:

Off-Road Cycling Specific
Leadership
  • Public Resources Code 5019.93 restricts improvements in State Parks that do not directly enhance the public’s enjoyment of the “natural, scenic, cultural, or ecological values of the resource”. In some instances this has been used by State Parks staff to restrict purpose built trails or other trail features added to enhance user experience. 
  • Inconsistent E-Bike usage policy interpretation and enforcement, district to district and park to park, has and is creating confusion amongst users.
  • Bicycle-legal single track trail mileage has not increased in proportion to the increase in ridership seen over the last decade. This has been further compounded by an increase in ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic, which in some areas has seen a 3-4x growth year over year. 
  • Despite substantial growth in ridership across the state, there is a feeling amongst the off-road cycling community that it is seen by CA State Parks as a second-class user group, or worse yet, a threat to public safety;
Leadership
  • Lengthy response times or no response from staff and leadership;
  • Turnover of staff and leadership has stalled and/or eliminated projects;
  • Lack of transparency and inconsistency in decision-making within the organization
Operational & Procedural
  • Reluctance from districts or park units to work with volunteer groups, and in some cases, volunteer efforts have been active undermined
  • CA State Parks Trails Manual – despite recent revisions, the current CA State Parks Trails Manual does not sufficiently meet the diverse needs of modern recreationalists. Protecting natural resources and elevating user experience are not mutually exclusive.  Adopting a more progressive approach to trail design, construction, and maintenance practices can do both. 
  • Policy and Procedure interpretation varies from park to park and district to district resulting in operational and enforcement inconsistencies
  • Limited opportunity for public engagement or input on major policy initiatives at the State or local District level – examples include the recently updated State Parks Trails Manual and the e-Bike policy update. 
  • Absence of a modern tool kit for managing and creating trails in State Parks. Two examples from other California Land Managers include U.S. Forest Service or Marin County Parks);
  • Challenging Change in Use process – requests are seldom approved, and those that are, have and are taking years to complete. 
  • Challenging Road and Trails Management Plan process. Despite the critical role RTMP’s play in trail system management, only four RTMPs have been completed in the CA State Parks system to date – Chino Hills State Park (SP), Donner Memorial State Park (SP), Humboldt Redwoods State Park (SP), Mount Diablo State Park (SP). Additionally, there are only three “active” RTMPs. Castle Rock State Park, initiated in 2010, Folsom Lake SRA, initiated in 2012, and Santa Monica Mountains NRA, initiated in 2003 are currently “in-process”. As a point of reference, the total estimated time for completion of Castle Rock State Park RTMP was 18 months (California State Parks)
Funding & Development
  • Shortage of funding and staff resources available to address the $1 billion dollar plus backlog of deferred maintenance and repairs. 
  • District Change in Use and Road and Trails Management Planning processes also impaired by lack of funding;
  • Member organizations have found the process for allocating private donor funding to specific projects to be challenging to complete.
Volunteer Trail Crew Day organized by CAMTB member, Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship, at Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz

Our CA State Parks Advocacy Platform

Based on the expressed shared challenges above, the CAMTB member community is focusing its efforts on three key areas:

Advocacy Pillar 1:  Expanded and Enhanced Trails– CAMTB will advocate for new and enhanced bike-friendly trail opportunities at all CA State Parks, and influence the policies and procedures used to manage these resources. In time, CAMTB will support the development of a statewide trails foundation that will assist in the common goal of increased and enhanced trails for a variety of recreational users, including bikers, hikers, runners, and equestrians.

Advocacy Pillar 2:  Environmental Stewardship – CAMTB will advance environmental stewardship and sustainable trail design as part of its advocacy platform to both protect and restore the natural resources we hold so dear. These efforts will amplify and expand upon the outstanding trail stewardship efforts of local CAMTB chapters, and provide replicable models for other trail advocacy organizations to adopt across the state.

Advocacy Pillar 3:  Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the Outdoors – CAMTB will develop a DEI framework for Outdoor Recreation in California, with clear and measurable goals, so that underserved and disadvantaged communities are seen, heard and embraced in outdoor recreation. We intend to run several pilots with CAMTB member organizations in year 1, with widespread adoption by year 3.  We seek input from CA State Parks on how best to marry these efforts with its own DEI initiatives to expand our collective reach.

Rider in Annadel State Park, near Santa Rosa

Next Steps

To bring these three advocacy pillars to life, CAMTB formed member-led action committees, which launched in June 2021. These committees will help ensure that the work is both shared and representative of the various needs that have been expressed by our larger member community across the state. Our work in year one will focus largely on developing trust and building relationships within CA State Parks, including the Director’s Office and the Office of Partnerships, as well as the offices of the District Superintendents.

We will also be pursuing partnership opportunities with CA State Parks affiliated entities, such as the California State Parks Foundation, Parks California, and the State Parks Commission.  In time, we expect these efforts to create opportunities at the state and local level to address the systemic challenges we seek to resolve. Action committee efforts will be tracked internally against our established CA State Parks work plan and associated metrics. Periodic updates will be shared with the CAMTB Members, as well as the larger off-road cycling community in California noting progress and opportunities for further engagement.  Our ultimate goal is to achieve success in all of our advocacy pillars while further developing our long-term working relationship with CA State Parks at the Sacramento, District, and local park level.


This report was prepared on behalf of California Mountain Biking Coalition, a 501(c) 4 nonprofit organization incorporated in the State of California. It is intended for informational purposes only and can only be used with permission by the California Mountain Biking Coalition. For questions or to request permission to use this document, Please contact CAMTB by way of email at info@CAMTB.org.


Do you love California State Parks?

We do too! Please support CAMTB and its member organizations CA State Parks advocacy efforts to ensure that the needs of the off-road cycling community are met!