In hopes of expanding the numbers and diversity of Californians enjoying the benefits of their 280 state parks, for Earth Day this year, on Saturday, April 13, five of those parks, from Sacramento to San Diego counties, are hosting “open houses.”

All fees – such as for parking, park entrance or materials that kids might use in planned arts and crafts activities — will be waived, Holly Martinez, the nonprofit State Parks Foundation’s director of programs and advocacy, informed Ethnic Media Services.

Activities will vary from park to park.

–At Rio de Los Angeles State Park, for instance, there’ll be a guided walk to the L.A. River, a tree giveaway, seed bomb-making, and an Anahuak Youth Soccer program.

–At Half Moon Bay State Beach south of San Francisco, there’ll be live music and performances, a native plant sale, a birdwatching hike and other guided nature walks, and volunteer projects such as invasive plant removal.

–As in Los Angeles, activities at the China Camp State Park in Marin County will be bilingual, in English and Spanish, and include birdwatching and wildflower hikes along with scavenger hunts, soccer relays, a museum tour and Chinese games.

–At Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, east of Sacramento, there’ll be an early morning bird walk, citizen science projects, fish viewing tanks, face painting, volunteer projects and a family-oriented study of Lake Natoma birds, among other things.

–And at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, the programs include volunteer garden projects, basket-making and tours showcasing native plants, the Kumeyaay nation, early settlements and more.

Where sea-level rise or other aspects of climate change are apparent, Martinez said, the issues they present will also be highlighted. In every case, both foundation and State Parks staff will be on hand.

Earth Day events in state parks have been an annual feature every year since the foundation started this annual celebration 21 years ago, Martinez said. But participants in the typical trail building and invasive plant culling activities tended to be the same people returning year after year.

No complaints about that, of course, but the foundation is hoping this year to introduce the parks to newcomers too, people from the state’s diverse communities and families who may have been missing out on opportunities for fun and education that parks can provide.

“We want people to come out and celebrate with their families and friends,” Martinez said, “to understand all the ways you can enjoy the parks. And then we want people to come back.”

And it works both ways. The hope is that people who’ve had their eyes opened to the all the parks have to offer will also choose to return to help them thrive.

“We’re expanding strategies to help foster the next generation of parks stewards,” Martinez said.

For more information on all the open houses – addresses, times, activities – visit– or call 415 262-4400.