Central Valley Lifestyle

Mathis looks to grant 4th graders free access to state parks

Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R–Visalia) is seeking to give elementary school students easier access to California’s state parks. 

Mathis introduced AB 542 – the Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) Act – into the legislature on Wednesday, which expands on the federal EKIP program to give 4th graders free access to all state parks. 

“More than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces,” Mathis said in a statement. “At the same time, and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, kids are spending more time than ever before in front of screens instead of being outside. 

“The EKIP program provides 4th graders with valuable opportunities to explore, learn and play in spectacular places that belong to us all, as well as inspire the stewardship of these places for future generations.” 

President Barack Obama launched the federal EKIP program in 2015, which granted free access to all federal parks for 4th graders throughout the nation. 

The federal program also allows all passengers in a car with the 4th grader to visit parks that charge per vehicle for free, as well as up to three adults at parks that charge per person. 

If the act is passed, California would follow in the footsteps of other states – including New York, Maryland, Indiana and Wyoming – that grant 4th graders access to their respective state parks for free. 

“AB 542 capitalizes and expands on the successes of the EKIP program, and the lasting effect it has on our children, by requiring that the California State Parks system also accept the pass for valid entry,” Mathis said. 

“California’s state parks are an integral part of our history and our future. The more we promote access to our state parks, especially within the lives of our children through the EKIP program, the more we can spur an appreciation of the system and the need to maintain it.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.