Public Access Program

field of wildflowers under blue sky


Access to nature contributes to our sense of community, connection to wild places, and desire to be stewards of the land. Conservation starts with individuals, families, and communities finding value in natural and wild lands.


The Public Access Program is one of the original Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) programs established in 1947. Initially the Public Access Program worked with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to support projects focused on the protection and development of public access areas and the promotion of hunting and fishing opportunities. Over time, the WCB's authority expanded to new partners, and today the Public Access Program provides planning and implementation funds to support wildlife-oriented recreation opportunities. Fundable activities and infrastructure include but are not limited to: multi-lingual interpretive signs, trails, ADA parking and restrooms, community outreach, and development of interpretive programs.

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area Fishing Pier

Gray Lodge Fishing Pier

Millions of birds flock to CDFW’s Gray Lodge Wildlife Area which provides outstanding wildlife viewing, outdoor education, nature trails, fishing, and hunting opportunities. More than 300 species live or pass through the nearly 9,100 acres of grassy fields, wooded riparian areas, and ponds. Gray Lodge is a year-round destination, seeing nearly 86,000 visitors also enjoy Gray Lodge Wildlife Area annually. Anglers enjoy ponds and canals that support bass, sunfish, perch, catfish, and carp. Nature programs and trail walks are available to school groups. Viewing platforms, trails, and a three-mile auto tour are available for wildlife viewing.

The Gray Lodge Fishing Pier project provides additional accessible opportunities to visitors. This project constructed a 580-square-foot long fishing platform accessible to those with mobility impairments. The fishing pier faces north and has views of seasonal wetlands and the nature trail.

San Vicente Redwoods Public Access Trails

San Vicente Redwoods lies in the heart of the Santa Cruz mountains and is part of a conservation easement acquired by Save the Redwoods League with funding from WCB. 3.5 million people live in highly urbanized areas within a 40-mile radius of the San Vicente Redwoods trailhead. This trail project, implemented by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, provides needed public access to nature while protecting ecosystems and working lands. Interpretive panels and visitor engagement by Land Trust staff and volunteers will explain the importance of wildlife habitats, and what role visitors themselves can play in their protection. The area was affected by the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fires, which posed an obstacle for the project's completion, but now allows visitors to view nature in recovery.

The project was completed in 2023 and includes:

  • Eight miles of new trails, including a 1-mile ADA accessible trail
  • Interpretive and wayfinding signage, including tribal cultural information
  • Parking area with ADA parking stall
  • ADA compliant restroom
how to read your trail signs
san vicente redwood information

Rock Creek Ranch

Rock Creek Ranch is an off-the-grid retreat located on the banks of the scenic Smith River in the Six Rivers National Forest. Owned and operated by the Smith River Alliance, the property hosts camps, conservation programs, and community gatherings in a rustic and wild setting. The surrounding landscape provides opportunities for fishing, rafting, kayaking, swimming, and hiking. Rock Creek Ranch also serves school groups and youth camps from surrounding low-income communities by offering free or reduced-cost outdoor education programming and camping experiences. However, the existing facilities are not easily accessible for visitors with disabilities, and there is no permanent restroom facility.

river running through trees

In 2023, WCB awarded a grant to construct visitor improvements at the Ranch, including:

  • An ADA-accessible restroom and associated ADA parking spots
  • A well and additional water storage to provide potable water and additional fire safety
  • Interpretive panels providing information about the cultural and indigenous history of the area, as well as visitor safety signage

Project completion is anticipated in 2025. The new infrastructure will support visitor comfort and safety, allowing Smith River Alliance to welcome a wider diversity of visitors while maintaining the natural and rustic quality of this remote destination.


Alyssa Benedetti
(916) 212-0691

How to Apply

The WCB is now using a streamlined application process across all WCB programs. Information about applying for grants can be found on the WCB Grant Opportunities page.

Public Access Program Priorities

Wildlife-oriented Recreation
The Public Access Program prioritizes projects providing public access for non-consumptive wildlife-related recreational activities. Projects should promote wildlife experiences and opportunities.

Hunting and Fishing Access
The Public Access Program prioritizes projects providing hunting and fishing access. Projects should enhance, improve, or construct facilities that provide hunting and fishing opportunities.

Outdoors for All
The Public Access Program prioritizes projects that further the goals of the California Natural Resource Agency's Outdoors for All Initiative by providing equitable access to parks and nature. Projects should enhance access for underserved communities and include meaningful collaboration with California Native American tribes.


Wildlife Conservation Board
Physical Address: 715 P Street, 17th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814
Mailing Address: Wildlife Conservation Board c/o CDFW, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
(916) 445-8448 | Contact WCB