Building Our Future: Expanding Our State Parks

Message From The Director

The past few years have been a period of remarkable growth for our Park Service. With the latest acquisitions and ongoing commitments, we will soon manage 54 state parks and over 100,000 acres of land—representing a more than 10% increase from just five years ago. Our state's dedication to land protection and public recreational access is unmatched. In my nearly 30 years with state parks, I have never seen such robust support for conservation. It's truly an exhilarating time to be a Park Ranger.

This progress is the result of collaborative efforts across various sectors. We are partnering with talented individuals and agencies to identify, fund, purchase, and plan every step of our expansion. From private sector fundraising and negotiations with landowners to developing strategic funding plans, our conservation agencies are working in unison to optimize the state's resources. Additionally, our collaboration with exceptional Land Trusts has been invaluable, allowing us to achieve milestones that would have been unattainable on our own.

As exciting as it is, adding new state parks presents significant management challenges. Our goal is to ensure that each park provides a safe and sustainable environment for visitors to enjoy the state's natural and cultural treasures. Unlike purchasing a developed building, most of our new sites require extensive preparation before they can be opened to the public. This involves detailed planning, from infrastructure layout to staffing needs. We must address numerous questions: Where should we build roads? Where will the bathrooms be? How will we manage waste? What facilities are needed? What activities will visitors engage in? Each question demands careful consideration and resolution.

We are fortunate to have a dedicated team within our parks, supported by numerous partners who assist with various aspects of park development. From conducting resource assessments, such as archaeology and flora and fauna inventories, to participating in emergency response training, our partners play a crucial role. Our teams also engage in master planning and community outreach, coordinating with local governments and securing legislative support. Every new park has its own unique journey, shaped by the collective effort to provide the best possible experience for visitors.

As you explore our current or future state parks, take a moment to appreciate the collaborative effort that has gone into protecting and planning these spaces. A well-designed park offers new adventures while making them safer and more accessible. As you enjoy these parks, remember to care for them, ensuring that future generations can also experience their beauty. If we do it right, we can ensure that people don’t change parks, but that parks change people!

In the words of John Muir, "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." Let's ensure our parks continue to offer such enriching experiences for years to come.

See you in the parks!


May 2024