Californians Can Now Use Their Library Cards to Visit State Parks for Free
California State Library Parks Pass allows free vehicle day use entry at over 200 participating state parks units.
California State Parks and the California State Library today announced an additional opportunity to advance safe and equitable outdoor access to all Californians. Starting this week—National Library Week—California State Parks will be distributing the California State Library Parks Pass to public libraries across the state for checkout by library patrons. The new pass will allow free vehicle day use entry at more than 200 participating state park units.
“Spending time in nature is crucial to our mental health and well-being,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “We’re lucky to have the largest state park system in the nation, and I am thrilled to partner with California State Parks and the California State Library to help make those spaces more accessible to California families. With the California State Library Parks Pass, anyone with a library card will be able to unlock the benefits and beauty of our majestic state parks.”
Research shows that spending time in the outdoors is associated with better mental and physical health, and that many Californians face barriers to accessing their parks. California has a wealth of state parks, and many public libraries are likely within driving distance of one. By reducing barriers to park access and partnering with entities such as public libraries, the state can help more Californians explore the outdoors and generate positive impacts in the area of health, natural resource stewardship, and historical and cultural connections.
“Parks and libraries have the potential to be powerful symbols and agents for California’s open spaces,” said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “It is an honor to work side-by-side with the California State Library, Newsom Administration and partners to advance outdoor access to all Californians via public libraries, inspire stewardship for the state park system and build a healthier California.”
As part of a three-year pilot program starting in April, each library jurisdiction will receive at least three California State Library Parks Pass hangtags per branch for checkout by library patrons, including mobile libraries. Park Passes will enter circulation on a rolling basis throughout April and May for checkout by library patrons; library users can contact their local library for more information. Library-card holders will be able to check out the pass for the allotted number of days allowed by the local library, then return the pass to the library for others to use. The pass is valid for entry of one passenger vehicle with capacity of nine people or less or one highway licensed motorcycle at participating state park units.
“Libraries are trusted community hubs where Californians know they can find what they need to work, play, and thrive,” said California State Librarian Greg Lucas. “This partnership with State Parks now allows Californians to ‘check out’ California’s great outdoors at their community library.”
Libraries are already an important part of Californians’ lives. There are 1,184 public library buildings in California, and more than 23 million Californians have library cards. In 2019-2020, these libraries circulated over 97 million items free of charge, such as books, technology, Wi-Fi hotspots, videos, music, instruments, tools, telescopes and more. Additionally, the libraries hosted over 300,000 programs in 2019-2020, with almost 7.5 million people attending. The California State Library Parks Pass program is one more way that Californians can get empowered through their libraries. Additionally, the California State Library will be providing grant funding to libraries for outdoor-related items for checkout, programs that teach natural resource stewardship and outdoor skills, or to encourage their library patrons to enjoy the outdoors and make historical and cultural connections to parks.
“All Californians should have the opportunity to be outdoors in nature,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot. “Yet many of our state’s residents live in communities without adequate parks and open space. This innovative new program will enable more Californians to explore our incredible State Parks system, and in the process create more equitable access to nature and the outdoors.”
The 2021/22 State Budget included initiatives to advance equitable access to state parks and open spaces for all Californians. A $9.1 million one-time General Fund investment was included in the budget to launch a state parks pilot to expand parks pass distribution, especially for youth in disadvantaged communities. The pilot includes the California State Park Adventure Pass program that provides free day-use passes for fourth graders and their families, the revamped Golden Bear Pass Program and the California State Library Parks Pass.
“California State Parks Foundation was honored to work with First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom to secure funding for the California State Library Parks Pass program and other innovative pilot programs to increase access to the state's magnificent park system. We firmly believe every Californian should have access to the beauty and benefits of parks, and we know that cost can be a barrier to visiting. We're excited that local branch libraries will now be a gateway to state parks," said Executive Director of the California State Parks Foundation Rachel Norton.
Detailed information on the new California State Library Parks Program, including full terms and conditions, is available online at CheckOutCAStateParks.com. For more information on all the new parks pass programs, please visit parks.ca.gov/CaliforniaOutdoorsForAll.