California State Park Rangers Association
John Jennings, Sinkyone
2nd Quarter 2017
The Golden Era of California State Parks
We did not know it at the time, but most of us worked, in whole or part, during what could be called the modern Golden Era of California State Parks.
I look at this Golden Era as going back to the appointment of William Penn Mott, Jr as Director in 1967. It continued for nearly 50 years, with some ups and downs, to about 2007 when the effects of the Great Recession started to hit and California State Parks became a low priority for the Governor.
Mott’s vision for state parks was to professionalize all aspects and levels of the department. This included development of a variety of new and innovative programs in interpretation, natural resources, law enforcement, planning and grants. The era was punctuated by somewhat regular large state park bonds and a related growth of new parks and new park developments. The department expanded during this time with more employees, new classifications, and new and growing programs. Added to this pay and benefits were generally rising throughout the era.
Some of programs, efforts and improvements that were established or flourished during the Golden Era include:
• Expanded training for employees (including admin., maint., resources, interp. and safety)
• Establishment of the department (Mott) training center
• Development of the Cooperating Association program
• Professionalizing field management
• Resource management/protection unit in HQ
• Statewide brochure program
• K-9 program
• Junior Ranger and Litter Getter Programs
• Defensive Tactics program
• Increased use of resource specialists
• California State Parks Foundation
• Creation of the volunteer program
• Systematic approach to statewide planning
Many of these programs and, probably more importantly, basic services started into a free-fall with the ongoing decreases in funding, department scandals, the spin-off of state park units, and the low priority backing from the Governor’s Office, starting in 2007.
After almost a decade of waiting and hoping for this slide and decline to bottom out, we appear to be still waiting for rock-bottom. It will probably take another decade for many basic services, staffing levels and programs to build back and none may ever reappear in any form approaching the levels of the Golden Era.
I realize that this view is obviously depressing and backward looking. One must hope that all the transforming and reorganizing currently occurring will produce not just a method to manage the decline, but might somehow take us to a new Golden Era for the California State Park System.
In this regard, leadership, combined with a passion and keen commitment to the best interest of the California State Park System will be vital to a future prosperous and well-functioning state park system that provided the very best to the public.
Please feel free to write me with your comments and opinions. Mike
President M.G. Lynch