About Us

Who We Are

Since 1979, the County of Santa Cruz Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services (County Parks) has managed a diverse parks system including neighborhood, community, regional and rural parks, coastal access points, trails, and cultural and recreational programs and activities for all ages throughout the unincorporated county.

Mission & Vision

Our Mission

The County of Santa Cruz Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services mission is to provide safe, well-designed and maintained parks, and a wide variety of recreational and cultural opportunities for our diverse community.

Our Vision

We envision a healthy and vibrant county where everyone is able to be active, explore, learn, play and connect, and where our diverse natural and cultural resources are celebrated and protected for generations to come.

The County Parks System

Today the County Parks Department manages:

  • 883 acres of parks
  • 38 neighborhood, community, regional or rural parks
  • 710 acres of open space
  • 24 playgrounds
  • 1,593 total acres of parkland
  • 27 coastal access points
  • 4 parks with reservable meeting rooms
  • 6 parks with sports fields
  • 8 parks with basketball courts
  • 5 parks with tennis courts
  • 4 parks with event facilities
  • 1 regional swim center with aquatics & fitness programs
  • Recreational, cultural and youth programs

What We Do


Administration staff provides support and customer service to all Parks staff and customers, and oversees the department budget, finances, human resources, and office operations. Reservations staff administers the use and rental of all park buildings, beaches and park sites; manages concessionaires; provides oversight of community gardens and horse-boarding facilities; works closely with maintenance staff to maximize the use and enjoyment of public facilities.


Recreation program staff administer an extensive list of programs including youth programs, interpretive nature programs, adult and senior programs, cultural services and arts programs. Recreation and Cultural Services staff also conduct annual special events, such as the Holiday Art and Craft Faire.


Aquatics staff manage the Simpkins Family Swim Center and the extensive aquatics programs offered there. Swim Center visits exceed 180,000 per year. Staff continues to develop new program opportunities to meet the needs of the community and increase participation at the Swim Center.


Maintenance staff provide maintenance to all park locations, beaches and facilities. In addition, staff maintains the landscaping around certain County government facilities. A partial list of responsibilities include mowing, minor construction projects, trash pick-up, restoration of natural resources, building maintenance, and pool maintenance at the Simpkins Family Swim Center. Maintenance staff also assists Reservations staff in preparation, set up and clean up for events.


Planning staff oversee the implementation of the Parks Capital Improvement Program (CIP) projects, develop plans and studies for components of the County Parks system, and oversees park construction projects. The Planning and Development section works with specialists from a variety of disciplines and members of the public to develop short, medium and long term plans such as feasibility studies, acquisition studies, park master plans, environmental review documents, design and construction documents, and permits for park projects. Staff lead the submission and administration of grant applications for County Parks projects.

Meet the Parks Director

Jeff Gaffney, Parks Director

Jeff Gaffney was appointed Parks Director in January 2015. He began his career in parks and recreation in 1990 as a recreation leader for the City of Gilroy helping at-risk youth and eventually became a Park Ranger for the County of Santa Clara.

In 2002, he signed on with California State Parks and over the years worked throughout the state. He was eventually promoted to Superintendent for Hollister Hills and in 2006 promoted to District Superintendent for the San Andreas District. During his last couple of years in the State Parks, Jeff was able to facilitate the acquisition of 24,000 incredibly diverse acres in eastern Kern County.

In the past, Jeff served as President of the State Park Peace Officer Management Association and was President of both regional and Statewide Park Ranger associations. He is actively involved in the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) as well as the California Park and Recreation Society (CPRS).

Jeff is continuing to build partnerships throughout Santa Cruz County and looking for every opportunity to have County Parks collaborate for long-term solutions to our community's current social, recreation and health challenges.

Contact Us


(831) 454-7901

Monday – Friday 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, except holidays

Our physical office is open, but staff availability is limited.