Ocean View Photo by Bill Dillinger

Ocean View
Photo by Bill Dillinger

The mission of CALPA is to create a resilient network of nonprofit park partners by empowering its members through education, collaboration, innovation and advocacy to strengthen the California state park system for future generations.

The CALPA Vision is to foster a network of resilient and innovative nonprofit partners to sustain the California State Parks system.

Museum of Natural History Morro Bay State Park Photo by Jarrell Jackman

Museum of Natural History
Morro Bay State Park
Photo by Jarrell Jackman

League Structure

The League is a volunteer group serving as an "umbrella" support organization. Its membership consists of Cooperating Associations affiliated with specific parks throughout California.

The Board consists of six Executive Officers (President, Secretary, Treasurer, VP Development, VP Membership and VP Education and Outreach) elected at the Conference Board Meeting and serving two-year terms as well as representatives of the League's regions and Board appointed committee chairs.

The Regions are Los Angeles, San Diego, Northern, San Francisco Bay, Monterey/Morro Bay and Sacramento areas. Each holds periodic meetings to maintain channels of communication, discuss items of mutual interest, take action at a regional level and develop recommendations on matters of statewide concern for consideration by the Board.

Malakoff Diggins Monitors
Photo by Bill Dillinger


The idea of having an over-all organization to provide networking and other benefits was being discussed almost as soon as the first State Park cooperating associations were established in the early 1970s. The first official step wasn't taken, however, until February 1983, when an organizational meeting was held at the end of a Department of Parks and Recreation training session for cooperating associations at Asilomar.

Members from about a dozen associations attended the meeting, at which it was agreed to establish a League of California State Park Non-Profit Associations (now CALPA), patterned after the Conference of National Park Cooperating Associations (now Public Lands Alliance). All associations serving the State Parks were invited to join.

Purposes cited for the League were to improve communication among associations, to provide a strong and unified voice in dealing with DPR and other agencies, to offer support to newly forming associations and to sponsor training sessions to augment those of the Department.

As the number of associations grew, it was decided to decentralize the League, and in 1992-93 the League was divided into six regions serving the San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara/Monterey, San Francisco Bay, Inland (Sacramento) and Northern (Red Bluff north) areas. The regions were to hold periodic meetings of their own to maintain channels of communication, discuss items of mutual interest, take action at the regional level and develop recommendations on matters of statewide concern for consideration by the League's board of directors.

While the regions have not been as active as anticipated, they have sponsored a number of regional workshops, some independently and some in conjunction with DPR, and the League's new long-range plan calls for more participation at the regional level in the future.

One of the first major activities of the League was to sponsor an annual conference, the first of which was a joint conference with the California State Park Rangers Association held in Ventura in 1984. By 1987, the League was holding annual conferences on its own, though with many park rangers and interpreters continuing to attend, as they still do. These conferences have continued to be the mainstay of the League’s program.

Assistance has been provided to several associations when they have had difficulties in their dealings with the DPR and other entities, and a long-running effort to persuade the Department to modify what seemed an overly authoritarian approach of its initial Cooperating Associations Manual and contract has ultimately resulted in a more "user-friendly" set of guiding documents.

The League has also been helpful in finding better and less costly sources of insurance for associations, such as the current arrangement through the Conference of California Historical Societies, which a number of associations use.

While much has been done in the past 17 years, the League still has far to go to reach its full potential. The new action plan being developed under the Board's strategic planning program is expected to provide the necessary guidance, and the League looks with enthusiasm to the years ahead.

Picachio State Park
Photo by Jarrell Jackman

About Cooperating Associations

The first Cooperating Associations were established in the State Park System in 1971. They are patterned after the associations that have long served the National Parks and have a similar purpose - to support and assist the interpretive and educational programs of the parks.

The associations were established because interpretive programs are seldom adequately funded under the usual budgeting process, no matter how important they may be from an educational standpoint.

To ensure a self-supporting source of funding for park educational and interpretive programs, all revenues earned by the non-profit associations are required by their Articles of Incorporation to be used solely for these specific purposes, and only in the parks the association serves.

Perhaps most important of all, the associations and their 15,000+ individual members are an invaluable source of grass-root support not only for the parks they serve, but for the system as a whole.

Parks Forward California is an exciting new initiative designed to bring out the very best in our parks, improve efficiency, increase accessibility and meet the needs of our growing and changing population.


California State Parks Foundation is an independent, member-supported nonprofit that mobilizes a diverse network of Californians to be active champions for our state parks.