Nonprofit Management of Parks

It is a concept we advocate for the Parkway, and two related local examples that are successful are the Sacramento Zoo and the Effie Yeaw Nature Center.

This article in the Sacramento Bee, reports on how a state park was saved from being closed through the formation of a nonprofit organization to provide management and philanthropic fundraising for it.

I also suspect that the board and donors, many probably from the private sector, will develop a marketing plan to generate more visitors than those that came under state government management.

An excerpt.

“SAN RAFAEL – Rather than beginning this month’s Fresh Tracks in medias res – atop the Oak Ridge Trail looking down on San Pablo Bay, say, or maybe wending through oak-studded singletrack – what say we start at the very start, at a Porta-Potty?

“The inside door of a Porta-Potty, to be exact.

“Perhaps figuring they had a captive audience, the Friends of China Camp tacked a laminated flier in each facility at its Miwok Meadows picnic area telling park users that, essentially, they’d be you-know-what out of luck if not for the efforts of this nonprofit organization.

“It’s not just the bathrooms to which they refer. China Camp itself was one of 70 state parks scheduled to be closed as part of a $22 million budget cut. Within weeks of this declaration last spring, a loose affiliation of Marin County residents – fishermen, hikers, mountain bike and kayak groups, scores of history buffs – formed the Friends of China Camp.

“They may have harbored disparate interests, but they united in attempting to save a 1,500-acre park abutting San Pablo Bay that once served as thatched housing tracts for the Coast Miwok Indians, later thrived as a post-Gold Rush Chinese immigrant fishing village and has, since time immemorial, been home to delicate marine and arboreal habitats.

“In that four-month effort, Friends of China Camp signed up 1,400 members and raised more than $250,000. And, taking advantage of a 2011 Assembly bill allowing nonprofits to essentially sublet state parks set aside for closure, the group sought to take control of a beautiful and historic village and open space that otherwise would have gone fallow.

“The result: a three-year operating agreement allowing Friends of China Camp to keep the gates open, the picnic sites spruced up, the trails groomed and, yes, the Porta-Potties well-stocked and tidy.

“Whether the change of operators will translate into more visitors to a traditionally underused park is an open question. But, for now, we should just cheer that it’s still open.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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