Michelle Succow: Living the Sacramento life as a fellow with State Parks

Author: Michelle Succow
Fellow Type: California Sea Grant State Fellow
Year(s) of Fellowship: 2018
Host Agency: California Department of Parks and Recreation

There are so many great options when trying to decide which host agency you want to be paired with for the California Sea Grant State Fellowship program. While all of the agencies have much to offer, one aspect about California State Parks that separates them from the others is that State Parks is a land manager—and not a regulatory agency. With State Parks, a fellow has the opportunity to directly impact our California coastline by assisting with the creation of strategies and policies that are used to actively manage coastal parks.

An Amazing Opportunity with State Parks

State Parks manages nearly a quarter of our coastline in 114 coastal park units, many of which already experience the impacts of climate change. With this land comes the responsibility to preserve California’s coastal biological diversity, cultural and natural resources, and opportunities for recreation, all while responding to the threat of climate change and sea level rise.

(Left) Coastal erosion undermines a pathway leading to the beach at South Carlsbad State Beach; (Right) A sign warning visitors to stay clear of eroding bluffs at San Elijo State Beach. Photos by Michelle Succow.

State Parks is responding in several ways, including building climate change into coastal park planning processes and documents. Projects are continuously underway, increasing resiliency to sea level rise at coastal park units. As a State Parks fellow, I have had the opportunity to assist with the development of a long-term coastal climate adaptation strategy to prepare coastal parks for sea levels of the future.

Location, location, location…

A fellow with State Parks works primarily from State Parks’ headquarters in Sacramento. Understanding that Sacramento isn’t anywhere near the coast, there are still plenty of great aspects about living in the Sacramento area.

Michelle’s pup Bailey enjoying a rest during a hike in the South Lake Tahoe area. Photo by Michelle Succow
Foremost is our central location, with only a short drive to many great destinations, including the San Francisco and Tahoe areas. Additionally, the American River flows through Sacramento, with many sandy beaches to help you feel like you’re back near the Pacific.

Secondly, Sacramento is a hub for political activity, with numerous events a fellow can take advantage of to learn more about what’s happening throughout the State, all while networking with leaders from a variety of organizations and agencies.

A third great reason to be a fellow in Sacramento is that many of the other fellows are placed here as well. These folks best understand the unique challenges you experience throughout your fellowship, and being close to them allows you to share your experiences over food and drinks!

(Left) State Fellows Michelle, Stephen, and Eric enjoying a hike around Bodega Head at Sonoma Coast State Park. Photo by Eric Martinez; (Right) Work space with a view! State Parks’ HQ is less than a 5-minute walk from the state capitol building. Photo by Michelle Succow.

There are many other great reasons to be placed in Sacramento, and with State Parks, but hopefully you’ll get to determine those yourself.

Written by Michelle Succow