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 narratives and events have been left behind; including the indigenous people who stewarded these lands since time immemorial.
To make California State Parks more welcoming and inclusive, we must first acknowledge and recognize the contributions to the land by Indigenous, Black, LatinX, Asian and other cultural communities. We want to increase the representation of these layered histories and amplify their contributions by uplifting these untold stories so more visitors can see themselves in parks and can nurture an appreciation for these places.
Here’s how we do it:
Our California State Park Interpreters and Educators are often the first people to greet visitors who come to explore. We want to make sure they are equipped with the tools to navigate untold or contested histories, foster dialogue, and spark civic action. To do this, we have partnered with the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, an organization dedicated to transforming places that preserve the past into spaces that promote civic action. They provide the training and resources interpreters need to help parks become dynamic centers of community engagement.
“I am going to be more intentional about making these stories a large part of the interpretation that I am planning to do.” — Training Participant
California State Parks and Timelooper developed an app, Virtual Adventurer, that will help park visitors make the most of their visits. Using innovative technology, users will have the opportunity to explore interactive maps, park tours, and interpretation — from virtual enactments to realistic renderings of historical artifacts.
Many of these stories focus on lifting Indigenous, Black, LatinX, Asian and other communities. The app provides an opportunity to tell a more complete story of the people, land, and state. For communities whose stories will be told, this is an opportunity to acknowledge their contributions and highlight possibilities.
The app can also be used outside of the park, try it out here!
Border Field State Park, a grantee of Parks California, produced a podcast series called Divided Together that shares stories that are important to communities around the park. This project aligns with the state’s “Reexamining our Past” initiative by conveying more comprehensive stories of our parks’ history. The podcast reveals topics related to separation and unification related to the border wall, as well as Kumeyaay land-use practices and the impact the border has on them.