Route to Parks Grants

At Parks California, we believe that everyone deserves a world-class park experience in California and that all can benefit from a lifelong connection with nature.

To ensure our state park system is more welcoming, accessible and relevant to all visitors, Parks California is proud to launch the Route to Parks Grants.

Do you share our passion for increasing access to California state parks?

Through the Route to Parks Grants, we aim to improve park access for all Californians so they can create authentic connections with nature.


For this round of funding, we are seeking proposals that address the following criteria:

  • Provide transportation to a California state park or beach, and offer a valuable recreational, environmental, cultural, or historical learning experience;
  • Reach communities who may face challenges getting to or enjoying parks;
  • Address those parts of the state with the greatest transportation needs;
  • Preference will be given to programs that:
    • Deliver memorable experiences in state parks through collaboration with other stakeholders by building expertise to deliver programs that they alone would not be able to provide
    • Provide participants with multiple meaningful outdoor experiences in parks
    • Have an innovative transportation approach and can be scaled statewide

Under this grant cycle, Parks California anticipates grant awards will average $15,000. Applicants should apply for projects that start November 1, 2020 with an intention of completion by October 31, 2021.

Parks California hosted a webinar on June 16, 2020 to discuss Route to Parks Grants goals, and address common questions regarding the application process. You can access a recording of the webinar here. In addition to the recording, you can access a copy of the PowerPoint presentation and additional questions read by the moderator, the presenters received additional questions via chat. You can access those questions and corresponding answers, here.

Thanks for everyone who submitted a proposal by August 7, 2020. We look forward to learning about the programs and making a final grant selection in October 2020.

Summer 2020 Grant Cycle and Important Dates 

Grant Guidelines Released

May 12, 2020

Informational Grant Proposal Webinar

Access a recording of the webinar here.

“Office Hours”

Staff will be available during “office hours” to answer questions by phone:

July 14 and July 15, from 9 a.m. – noon

July 28 – July 30, from 1 – 3 p.m.

To schedule a 15-minute meeting during “office hours”, please email grants@parkscalifornia.org. Meetings will be accepted and confirmed after the June 16 webinar.

Proposals Due

Proposals are due at 5pm on August 2, 2020

Review Period

August 3 – September 30, 2020

Grant awardees Notified

October 2020

Grant Agreements Due

October 16, 2020

Grantee Welcome Call

November 4, 2020


May 2021

Final Report

November 2021


Nonprofits, cities, counties and local park districts who can provide programming and transportation (free or discounted services) to state parks.

While we encourage all kinds of outdoor exploration, this program only supports experiences in California State Parks.

Through this grant, we support efforts that decrease the impacts of climate change by using mass transit or alternative transportation options. Transportation options such as vans, public transit, bikes, buses, ride-share and bikeshare are encouraged.

This grant supports programs that serve communities with a median household income (MHHI) less than 80 percent of the statewide average, often defined by government agencies as disadvantaged. The 2014-2018 American Community Survey reports the MHHI of California to be $71,228. 80% –  a disadvantaged community would be less than $56,982. 60% and a severely disadvantaged community would be less than $42,737.  Percent or total number of participants reached from this prioritized community is a factor of grant consideration.

Our goal with Route to Parks is to financially support community-based programs that create vital connections between people and their local state park. We also understand that our world is facing unprecedented and unpredictable challenges due to COVID-19. It is our hope that the recipients of our grants will use these funds in the way we intended for their programs that they have designed. We will remain flexible to assess the situation when we are closer to the project start dates. We will collaborate with our community partners to adapt the project parameters to meet our collective goals within the scope of what’s available to communities at that time aligned with state and national public health guidelines.

Under this grant cycle, Parks California anticipates awards will average $15,000 per grantee. Parks California will base the size of the awards on project need, scale and benefits to the community. Grantees will receive awards upfront upon signing the grant agreement.

Grant awards will be one-year with the opportunity for multi-year funding through renewals. Grant funds must be spent within the grant period.

A mid-year and final narrative and financial report on the use of the funds are required to be submitted. Mid-year report will be due in May 2021 and final report within 30 days upon conclusion of the funded activity. Grantees shall use the report template provided by Parks California.

Parks California wants to illuminate the great work happening in communities. As funders, we will ask grantees to share information such as photos, quotes, interviews, etc. to highlight the collective impact on parks. These stories will be used for internal and external communications and marketing materials.

We understand that addressing the transportation barrier to park access is multifaceted. This initiative intends to support programs that address this barrier with sustainable solutions that are replicable and measurable. Program expenses in addition to transportation are allowed under this grant.

Indirect expenses will be considered as part of grant proposals and should be clearly outlined in the budget template and narrative.

We encourage all applicants to have conversations with local state park staff about the proposed project/program to ensure collaboration and partnership. The letter of support needs to come from the State Parks Superintendent or designee who oversees the park unit.

Eligibility of nonprofit organizations must exist under the provisions of Section 501c3 of the International Revenue Code.

Fundraising, grant writing, lobbying, costs outside grant performance period and costs outside the approved grant scope.

Time spent should be calculated by the duration of the event and/or experience in a park. For example, the outdoor experience in a park is from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., that is a total of five hours spent in a park. Please round up to the nearest 30 minutes.

We encourage applicants to participate in the webinar hosted by Parks California on June 16, 2020. Parks California will also host “office hours” from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. on June 23, 24 and 25. To schedule a 15-minute meeting during “office hours”, please email grants@parkscalifornia.org. Meetings will be confirmed after the June 16 webinar. You can also submit questions related to the grant guidelines to grants@parkscalifornia.org

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