That’s My Park: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

Alex Trudelle

January 13, 2019

Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks is a local non-profit that supports 32 California State Parks from Watsonville to Half Moon Bay. Founded in 1976 as the Monterey Bay Natural History Museum, the organization has evolved into the celebrated success that it is today, a statewide model for cooperating associations looking to elevate their local parks similarly.

Friends’ efforts are both significant and comprehensive

Bringing millions of dollars in funding every year to support major improvement and renovation projects, sponsor community events and bankroll specialized interpretive programming, and that’s just for starters. Friends hire staff to work on behalf of the parks, helping to manage park operations and customer service. The group also donates money to the parks to cover interpretive and educational staff salaries, as well as volunteer docent training and support.

Trail view at Castle Rock State Park

Trail view at Castle Rock State Park

Friends’ budget helps support the 32 parks in California State Parks’ Santa Cruz District, which includes Santa Cruz County and coastal San Mateo County. This support does come in varying degrees, as some parks and communities in the district are lucky enough to have their own cooperating associations.

Friends’ pet project, Rancho San Andres Castro Adobe State Historic Park

Is certainly the biggest benefactor of their efforts. In the last decade, the non-profit has funneled millions of dollars into the project to acquire and restore the 170-year old, two-story adobe hacienda and eventually open what will be the Pajaro Valley’s first state historic park. Still anticipating its grand opening, the park property is host to monthly open house events, yearly fundraisers hosted by Friends, and local students visiting on field trips throughout the school year.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park Lodge

Big Basin Redwoods State Park Lodge | Photo by Matte Photography

Speaking of school kids, in the last few years Friends has worked with the parks to design, fund and implement the innovative Kids2Parks program. Created to provide equitable access to parks for elementary-aged children, Friends pays all transportation costs for classes from local Title I schools to visit various parks in the area, including Big Basin, Castle Rock, Wilder Ranch, the Castro Adobe, and Seacliff State Beach. First launched in 2016, Kids2Parks grew from six sponsored visits to twenty in 2017 and continues to expand in the 2018-2019 school year.

Mole & Mariachi Festival

Mole & Mariachi Festival Dancers | Photo by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

Friends host a number of annual events and activities to help achieve its mission to build community support for our state parks, like the Mole and Mariachi Festival. Held every September at the Santa Cruz Mission, this colorful and family-friendly gathering celebrates Latino culture and local history. PopUp Picnics in the Park, also at the Mission, are offered throughout the summer and in 2018 featured the scrumptious fare of local caterer Taquitos Gabriel. Friends also hold a major annual fundraising event at the Castro Adobe State Historic Park property, to celebrate the adobe’s many stewards over its rich history and support ongoing efforts to open the park.

Help out

To learn more about this laudable organization and how you can help them to improve the parks experience in the Santa Cruz Mountains and beyond, check out their website at

Alex Trudelle
Alex Trudelle

Alex should know how to have fun in the Santa Cruz Mountains, after all he literally has a degree in it! A graduate of San Jose State with a BS in Recreation Management, Alex was raised in Boulder Creek and returns often to soak up the redwood shade. As an Eagle Scout he explored the mountains for free as a kid, but since then he's been making a living at it as staff for organizations like California State Parks and the YMCA.

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