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State Parks chief: Parks need diversity, and MBAs

by on June 17, 2013

Major General Anthony Jackson, CA State Parks Chief
Major General Anthony Jackson, head of California State Parks, speaking in Oakland. Photo: Dan Rademacher

California’s new state parks chief, Major General Anthony Jackson, met with representatives of more than a dozen Bay Area open space and conservation groups on Saturday, and more than once emphasized the need for cultural shifts not only within his own department but also in the larger parks and open space movement.

“I’ve come into an organization that I would say has not made a cultural change, a business change, since the 1950s,” Jackson told the approximately 50 attendees of a forum organized by the Regional Parks Association. “We’re approaching our 150th anniversary and we have no business or marketing department.”

Jackson aims to change that quickly — with a new business and marketing department coming on line this month. He mentioned innovations like getting ad campaigns for parks on television or selling state park passes at retail outlets like REI or Walmart.

“We told the rangers to go out and earn more money, but we didn’t provide them with a single MBA to help manage it,” Jackson said. “Californians at large, including the government, have taken the parks for granted.”

He did say that the activists gathered before him were not among the ones taking parks for granted. But, Jackson added, even the assembled park advocates, mostly older and white, are part of the complex problems now bedeviling the parks.

“Groups like yours have stepped up and let the state off the hook. And you have been taken for granted,” he said. “We have got to make our parks more valuable to every Californian. Look at yourselves in this room. You have got to reach out into those Hispanic communities, and those African American communities, to those kids and their parents.”

To that end, Jackson said he’s started an effort to turn San Francisco’s Candlestick State Recreation Area (once on the closure list) and Los Angeles State Historic Park into “gateway parks” where urban families can connect with the whole state parks system. “I want to  have the buses there waiting to take kids and their parents to the redwoods.”

But he leavened such big ideas with pragmatism: “This is a ship that’s been going off course for decades. This is going to take time.”

The activists at the forum seemed ready to give Jackson some time, and some help.  “In my 30 years of working on park issues,” said Norman La Force, a long-time Sierra club activist, lawyer, and major player in East Bay environmental politics, “this is the first time a director of state parks has come to a meeting of activists like this.”

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Pat Kittle on July 9th, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I’ve been a lifetime member of Save the Redwoods League for decades, and saving redwoods is my life’s work.

Therefore, I would greatly appreciate it if my following comment is NOT censored again:

It’s great if more Hispanics & blacks start caring about nature, but if they don’t it’s not whitey’s fault!

Dan Rademacher on July 9th, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Hi Pat, We are a small outfit here, so delay in approval is not necessarily censoring. That said, using words like “whitey” is probably not an ideal way to persuade people of your point of view. I attended that meeting in the hills, and (speaking as a white person) it was full of the usual, devoted, wonderful suspects: Older, well-off folks who live in the hills. Nothing wrong with that, but Jackson was just making the point that given demographic changes in California and ever-increasing diversity, if nature advocates want to have a majority of people voting for nature and conservation, they have got to appeal to a broad base. I don’t think he was blaming anyone, per se. Just being pointed about the reality as he sees it.

Peter Brastow on July 15th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Well said, Dan. General Jackson is a breath of fresh air because he really seems to be about action and transformation.

Pat Kittle on January 16th, 2014 at 3:44 am

I used the term “whitey” because it’s one of the more printable anti-white racist slurs I been called, merely for pointing out the following:

What Californian nature does NOT need is more humans, whatever their color.

It’s not racist to acknowledge that highly UNSUSTAINABLE immigration levels (and UNSUSTAINABLE immigrant fertility) are why California’s human population is exploding.

That is a fact. Yes, FACT. If we’re serious about “diversity” how about remembering BIOdiversity? As conservationists that is our priority. We shouldn’t have to apologize for it.

Let’s be honest about the ecological implications of endless human population in California. Support SUSTAINABLE immigration.

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