California is the most highly populated State in the nation, with roughly 37 million residents today, and more than 50 million projected by 2025*.  However, many of California’s most heavily urbanized areas are under-served by park and outdoor recreation facilities and many urban residents, particularly those least able to afford it, have no access to or are either unaware of, or feel isolated from, state and federal park lands and recreation facilities.  Therefore, in addition to its traditional roles in managing historic and cultural sites, natural resource lands and outdoor recreation areas at locations throughout the state, State Parks is seeking opportunities closer to where people live in and near urban areas.   

State Parks’ presence in urban areas should be seen as an opportunity to fulfill both its natural and cultural resource mission as well as to provide resource-based outdoor recreation opportunities for urban residents. State Parks will concentrate its initial efforts on the most heavily/densely populated urban areas that are also the most under-served with local and regional park and recreation lands and facilities.  These may include highly urbanized areas such as San Diego, Los Angeles/Long Beach, Riverside/San Bernardino, and Oakland/San Francisco/San Jose, but may also include under-served urban areas in the Central Valley such as Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, Merced, Modesto, Madera and Stockton.

*Note:  these guidelines are current as of fiscal year 2024-25;  updates will be posted here when available. 


In seeking potential project lands to be nominated for acquisition, the following characteristics should be considered:

1.  Properties located in the state’s most highly urbanized areas, of sufficient scale and with areas suitable for restoration of native complexes to at least a semi-natural condition.  These areas may offer the visitor “gateway experiences,” which introduce urban dwellers to more traditional state parks.

2.  Lands which include natural and/or cultural resources native to the area and, at the same time, will accommodate resource-based outdoor recreation and interpretive programs and facilities. The lands acquired and facilities developed will have to be of sufficient scale to allow for the development of significant recreation facilities and for natural and/or cultural resources and services be managed.

3.  The lands acquired in urban areas, and the facilities and programs that will ultimately be established, should be of a scale to serve not just the needs of nearby neighborhoods but also the needs of visitors from throughout a broader region.


A.     Highest priority will be given to urban open space lands which are high in natural, cultural and recreation resource values or which provide critical bio-connectivity. 

B.     High priority will be given to urban open space lands in critically under-served, densely populated urban areas.

C.    High priority will be given to lands of sufficient size/scale to serve not only local open space needs, but also serve the needs of residents from a broader regional area.

D.    High priority will be given to lands acquired by State Parks that will be operated and maintained by a partnering local agency or community based organization.

E.     Priority will be given to projects in which local governments will join in a coordinated partnership of efforts directed at meeting urban open-space needs.  State Parks will give priority to projects which demonstrate a higher proportional commitment of others.

F.     Priority will be given to candidate projects, which are identified as priority acquisitions within the plans of local or regional governing bodies; i.e., that are identified as priority acquisitions in the approved general plans of city, county, or regional governments.

G.    Priority will be given to candidate projects that are integrated with local projects for which State Parks has provided grant-funding assistance.