California is home to the nation’s largest state park system – the sweeping views represent an array of natural, historical, and cultural lands. However, many capture the European-settler perspective, leaving behind narratives of people who stood in these places long before they became the places they’re known for today. As a result, these incomplete narratives can send a less welcoming message to current and future park visitors.
To make California State Parks more welcoming and inclusive, we want to increase the representation of these layered histories, amplify their contributions and stories, and use them as engagement opportunities. For many, seeing the stories of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian and other cultural communities, is a form of acknowledgement and recognition of their contributions to the land. By lifting these untold stories, park visitors will have the opportunity to see themselves in parks and, with anticipation, nurture an appreciation for these places. Such efforts require a multi-program approach. Signature Untold Stories programs include:
- Park Interpreter Training – As visitors explore state parks, interpreters are often the first face to greet them. To ensure park interpreters are equipped with the tools to navigate difficult or contested histories, foster dialogue, and spark civic action, we are collaborating with the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience for training and resources needed to help parks become dynamic centers of community engagement.
- Relevancy and History – In a collaborative partnership with the UC and CSU system, the Relevancy and History program is designed to jointly develop, test, and model open-ended and relevant interpretation from multiple perspectives of 21st Century scholarly interpretation. The multi-pronged approach is to enhance interpretive practices and the relevancy of California State Parks to today’s students, stakeholders and local community members (traditional and non-traditional park visitors). This approach incorporates educational methodology and training, research and documentation, community engagement, and public interpretation and presentation.
- California State Parks Adventurer App – In early summer 2022, the app created by California State Parks and Timelooper will help park visitors make the most of their visits. Using innovative technology, users will have the opportunity to explore features including interactive maps, park tours, and interpretation — from virtual enactments to realistic renderings of historical artifacts.
Lifting Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian and other communities is an opportunity to tell a more complete story of the people who contributed to the land and state. For communities whose stories will be told, this is an opportunity to celebrate contributions and highlight possibilities.