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Use Your Library Card for Free Admission to Millerton Lake. For a Few More Months, Anyway.
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 1 month ago on
May 21, 2024

Gov. Newsom's budget cut proposals for 2024-25 include funding for the California State Library Parks Pass. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)

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A state program to allow library-card holders to check out day passes for more than 200 state parks is on the governor’s budget chopping block.

The California State Library Parks Pass — one of the many perks offered through public libraries across the state — is in danger of being defunded, and the California State Parks Foundation is hoping that public pressure on state legislators will help restore it in the 2024-25 budget.

According to the foundation, 33,000 California State Library Parks Passes have been placed in more than 1,100 public libraries across the state. The goal is to eliminate barriers to visiting state parks that even a $10 day pass can pose to some families with limited household budgets.

The foundation is urging legislators to restore $3 million in next year’s budget for the California State Library Parks Pass program, about half of what was budgeted for this year.

If the funding is not restored, the pass program will disappear after Dec. 31.

“It is incomprehensible that, after all the hard work to create and start administering this popular program, and documented success in achieving a key policy goal of the Newsom administration, that the California State Library Parks Pass would lose funding,” said Rachel Norton, the foundation’s executive director. “California State Parks Foundation and grassroots advocates from around the state will be urging the Legislature to restore this funding as the budget process moves forward.”

Popular in Fresno County Libraries

According to the San Joaquin Valley Library System, Valley Cat, Fresno County’s library passes are more popular than in other cities and counties. On Tuesday morning, there were 92 available with 21 holds. By contrast, Kern County library patrons have 403 available with one hold.

Tulare County had 83 available with two holds, Madera County, 36 available with zero holds, Merced County, 51 available with one hold, Mariposa County, 16 available with zero holds, and Kings County, 13 available with zero holds.

Some cities in the Valley have separate library districts: Tulare City has nine passes with zero holds, Porterville, seven with zero holds; and Coalinga-Huron, five with zero holds.

The passes are available in each jurisdiction to library card holders.

Officials with the Fresno County Public Library were unable this week to provide statistics about local usage.

Spokeswoman Susan Renfro said the passes are available at all 34 library sites in the county, but she recommends making a reservation online through the Valley CAT system.

In addition, “each of our branches also has a select number of Lucky Day passes available on a first-come, first-served basis. Popularity varies by location, so we suggest placing the pass on hold when you can,” she said.

The passes must be used within three weeks of the check-out.

Not All Parks Honor the Passes

While the passes can be used in hundreds of parks, they aren’t honored at state park units operated by federal or local governments, private agencies, or concessionaires, and they also can’t be used for boat use or camping.

Sadly, some of the most popular destinations for Valley residents don’t accept the passes for entry, such as Oceano Dunes, Cayucos State Beach, and Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument.

Regional state parks, recreation areas, and beaches where the passes are accepted include Millerton Lake, San Luis Reservoir, Morro Bay, Morro Strand, and Pismo.

This California Parks Department website lists the parks, beaches, and other areas where the passes may or may not be used.

The California State Parks Foundation says that the Newsom administration plans to continue funding the California State Park Adventure Pass that gives fourth- graders and their families free access to 54 parks for an entire year, and also the Golden Bear Pass program, a free annual pass that’s valid at more than 200 parks and is available for families who receive CalWORKs, individuals receiving supplemental security income, income-eligible residents over the age of 62, and participants of California’s Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. More than 63,000 families have received a Golden Bear Pass since it was revamped in 2021, according to the foundation.

Free Admission for Veterans Coming Up

California State Parks is honoring the service of veterans, and active and reserve military members, by offering free admission to 143 participating state park units on Memorial Day – Monday, May 27. The list of participating park units can be found at parks.ca.gov/MemorialDay2024.

Veterans, active duty, and reserve military personnel must show a valid military ID, or proof of discharge other than dishonorable or bad conduct, to receive free admission.

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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