Case Study: California Library Parks Pass Program

CHALLENGE: INCREASING ACCESS TO CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the outdoor recreation industry experienced an increase in new explorers.

However, while many Americans rediscovered the great outdoors in 2020, 13% of Americans from predominately diverse backgrounds in urban areas stopped going outside, according to Penn State’s Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management in collaboration with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

California State Parks saw a need to increase accessibility to the outdoors and looked to local libraries to align with their mission statement: “To provide for the health, inspiration, and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.”

THE SOLUTION: CONNECT LIBRARY CARD HOLDERS WITH FREE PARK PASSES

In 2015, California State Parks launched a pilot Library Park Pass Program at a San Francisco library to help locals gain outdoor accessibility in one of the state’s largest urban areas. The library started by distributing seven state park passes. By spring of 2022, the program had expanded to public libraries across the state.

The California State Library Parks Pass Program provides California libraries with 5,000 “California Explorer” passes to more than 200 participating state parks. The 365-day pass (valued at $195) is valid for the entry of a 9-person vehicle or one highway-licensed motorcycle.

With their free library card, California residents can access hundreds of miles of coastline and thousands of miles of trails, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Library patrons can use the passes for three to seven days upon checking them out, and they can also visit multiple parks during this period. The Library Parks Pass eliminates the need for visitors to pay the day-use entry fee upon arrival at a state park.

The Parks Pass program is supported by the First Partner’s Office in the Outdoor Access for All initiative, which works to “build a healthier and more equitable California for all kids.”

Brian Ketterer, coastal field division chief at California State Parks, explained that the program ensures that visitors have “access to the parks straight from their front door, experiencing all the programming and opportunities.”

TECHNOLOGY TO SUPPORT CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS

California State Parks utilizes Tyler Technologies’ outdoor recreation technology to validate the passes upon park entry by connecting a bar code to the Point of Sale (POS) system.

The system shows when and where a visitor checked out a Library Parks Pass, as well as what state parks they visited. California State Parks can analyze this information and access a data-driven understanding of the visitor journey.

With this technology, Ketterer said, “We can start building and tailoring parks to our end users. That changes again every day with every generation and recreational opportunity.”

In addition to advanced tracking, Tyler Technologies’ outdoor technology has made entering the parks a fast and easy experience for Californians.

All Library Park Passes have barcodes that are scanned like a paid pass. However, this special pass enters the system without a cash or credit transaction and validates the entry pass for the visitor and park employees.

“I want you to get out there and explore and play in the parks as quickly as possible, and our entry into that park should be seamless,” Ketterer explained. In the first three months of the program, Tyler Technologies recorded that the passes had been used more than 700 times at more than 40 different California State Parks.

According to a survey conducted by California State Parks, 94% of the Library Parks Pass patrons plan to use the pass to visit the parks on a yearly basis. Thirty-nine percent of those patrons plan to use the pass seven or more times a year.

ACCESSIBILITY IN THE OUTDOORS: THE PARKS PASS PROGRAM IS JUST THE BEGINNING

California State Parks continues to expand its accessibility by collaborating with Tyler Technologies.

The two teams are in the process of creating a bilingual reservation website, which will launch in 2022. According to Ketterer, 117 languages are spoken in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He explained that inclusivity “starts right there at the web page.”

From pay-by-phone features and digital wallets, California State Parks continues to explore new opportunities within the parks.

“California park users are consumers of a digital economy, and we have to provide some opportunities for them that make it easy,” said Bill Bryan, vice president of outdoor recreation for Tyler Technologies. “When they want to go to the park, it should be a walk in the park.”

To hear more from Brian Ketterer and to learn more about the program and California State Parks, listen to the Tyler Tech Podcast episode: How To Make State Parks More Accessible. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts.

Case Study Highlights

  • In spring of 2022, California State Parks issued 5,000 day-use passes to public libraries across the state, providing free access to over 200 participating state parks. 
  • California State Parks utilizes Tyler's outdoor recreation technology to validate passes and collect user-data using the robust Point of Sale (POS) system. 
  • 94% plan to use the California Library Parks Pass annually.

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