Established in fiscal year 2021-2022, the Waterway Connections Initiative (WCI) will complete its expenditures and encumbrances by June 30, 2027.

As of early 2024, WCI has funded a variety of projects that advance its objectives, such as:

  • recreation facility improvement projects that improve and expand public access, including at Brannan Island State Recreation Area, the new Dos Rios State Park property, and numerous others
  • Division of Boating and Waterways local assistance for boat launch facility improvements
  • community engagement and general planning needed to develop recreation facilities at State Park units
  • grant programs administered by Parks California, including:
    • Route to Parks grants that support underrepresented communities who face challenges getting to or enjoying parks
    • Career Pathways grants that create professional skill development opportunities for the next generation of public land managers

In addition, WCI is working with partners to develop opportunities to expand and improve public recreation access in the Tulare Lake Basin watershed, including parts of Kings, Tulare, Fresno, and Kern Counties.

Policy Guidance

Implementation will be conducted in accordance with the enabling legislation (see WCI Basics) and Guiding Principles.

Areas of Emphasis

WCI supports a variety of projects and partnerships that achieve WCI Objectives, statewide.  Major focal areas include:

Central Valley Vision Implementation

As many Priority Communities are within the Central Valley, State Parks expects to focus significantly on implementation of its 2009 Central Valley Vision Plan, developed pursuant to Public Resources Code 5095.50 et seq.  For more information, see Central Valley Vision


State Parks will pursue innovative partnerships that increase effectiveness and efficiencies in outdoor access, including consideration of "networks of recreation" and gateways to multiple outdoor recreation opportunities, within the context of sustainable landscape stewardship.  WCI will specifically seek to engage California Conservation Corps and local youth corps to advance WCI efforts and build job skills in Priority Communities.


Funding Categories

WCI is efficiently leveraging existing plans, processes, and programs to strategically advance its Objectives, as described in the categories below.  WCI may provide local assistance for eligible activities through agreements with local government partners.  


Recreation Facility Improvement & Development

Many recommendations in the Central Valley Vision include expanding or developing new campgrounds and day-use/picnic areas, among other improvements like roads, trails, visitor centers, etc.  This kind of infrastructure around waterways creates opportunities for park visitors to relax and have fun while cooling off.  Similar opportunities exist throughout the state. 

Examples of WCI-funded projects include:

  • Day use facility and campground improvements at Brannan Island and Turlock Lake State Recreation Areas.
  • Public access improvements at the Bowtie parcel at Rio de Los Angeles State Park, by providing critical matching funding.
  • Local assistance to improve boat launch facilities identified through the Division of Boating and Waterways' Boat Launch Facility grant programs.


Public Education & Access

Priority Communities need to feel welcome and comfortable outdoors, in order to enjoy the benefits of outdoor recreation -- and inspired to steward California's precious natural and cultural resources.  Culturally relevant and welcoming programming, including guided walks, presentations, and printed information available to broad audiences, are an important foundation.  WCI is also reducing barriers to outdoor access by improving transportation to parks, among other projects. 

WCI-funded projects include two grant programs administered by partner ParksCalifornia:

  • the successful Route to Parks grant program increases Priority Communities' transportation to waterway-focused State Parks recreation.
  • the innovative Career Pathways grant program builds connectivity to the outdoors that creates stewardship career opportunities for Priority Communities.

In addition, WCI and State Parks' Division of Interpretation and Education are working with local partners and local youth corps to explore and develop projects that improve public access in the Tulare Lake Basin watershed.


Park Planning

Parks planning engages communities to create and strengthen connections with parks, as the necessary foundation for building public access facilities and programs appropriate to the unique park location.  In addition, State Parks require planning specific to recreational resources, like road and trail management plans, or facility management plans.  Significant support for planning is a necessary early step to improving, increasing, and managing sustainable public access for Priority Communities. 

WCI-funded projects include:

  • Classification of the Delta Meadows property, and development of a general plan that identifies facilities needed to increase public access.
  • Production of a general plan for Clear Lake State Park, to allow opportunity for water access and campground improvements, and a trail system expansion.
  • Production of a general plan for Great Valley Grasslands State Park, so a necessary parking lot, restrooms, and trails can be constructed.


Strategic Property Acquisitions to Improve Public Access

Especially along rivers, strategic acquisition of parcels up- and downstream of existing public recreation lands can create opportunities for floating or paddling waterways.  Other specific park property augmentations can improve access to public lands, or increase operational efficiencies.  Some options are identified in the Central Valley Vision Implementation Plan.