California Parks Department

Find California parks departments, including city and state park authorities, and systems. Parks departments provide information on local recreation facilities, city parks, state parks, activities, and recreational land use.


About Parks Departments

What is a Parks Department?

A Parks Department usually refers to a county or local government agency that is responsible for a wide range of public facilities used for active or passive recreation or as open spaces. These include parks, athletic fields, indoor and outdoor pools, other sports facilities, trails, and nature preserves.

The maintenance of Parks Department facilities is a central responsibility of Parks Departments. Using a combination of in-house staff and contractual service providers, Parks Departments keep their facilities clean and in good repair. They may also plan and manage upgrades, expansions, and capital improvements to Parks Department facilities in response to the aging of facilities or changes in public demand. Parks Departments are also usually responsible for scheduling and coordinating the use of their facilities. A variety of clubs, sports leagues, and community groups may all utilize Parks Department facilities. Parks Departments attempt to accommodate and balance the needs of the community in making facilities available to interested groups and the general public.

In many communities, the Parks Department also provides programs, activities, and services with its own staff and resources. Common Parks Department programs include youth and adult swim lessons, Little League baseball and other organized sports, fitness classes, and summer camps. Many Parks Departments also run programs in partnership with other community organizations. Parks Departments are often in charge of organizing special events at Parks Department facilities as well, such as 4th of July celebrations, other holiday events, fishing derbies, and festivals.

Parks Departments may be organized as separate agencies within the county or local government, and can be referred to as Parks & Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services, or other similar names. Some Parks Departments are organized as a division within a Public Works Department and focus on the facility management aspects of the Parks Department operations, while recreational programming and other services fall under a separate department.

State parks are usually the responsibility of a state's Department of Conservation or Department of Environmental Protections. The U.S. National Parks Service (NPS) manages all national parks as well as many national monuments and other properties with special designations. The NPS is an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior.