CNM Partnerships


Partnering with the National Park Service (NPS) and Cabrillo National Monument (CNM)

Why would an NPS unit need a partner?

  1. If the NPS unit has inadequate fiscal resources, staffing, and/or land base to fully support its mission or achieve its vision
  2. If the NPS unit has legal constraints that prevent it from fully supporting its mission or developing its vision
  3. The simple addition of new perspectives may reveal previously undiscovered flaws or areas for improvement and suggested remedies and enhancements
  4. To foster a shared sense of stewardship

Our previous NPS Director Jon Jarvis answered the question “What can NPS realize through partnerships?” by saying “Sustainability. Connections. Commitment. The results are truly greater than the sum of the parts. Neither the partner nor the NPS can achieve such results alone.”

Who are NPS Partners?

 The National Park Service has thousands of partner organizations that work on projects and programs in parks and communities around the nation. Here are just a few:

In parks…

  • Friends Groups and the National Park Foundation raise friends and funds to support the work of parks. The National Park Foundation is the official charitable partner of the NPS and has partners of its own that indirectly contribute millions of dollars to the NPS.
  • Cooperating Associations operate bookstores for park visitors.
  • Universities in the national network of Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units study park resources to make science-based management decisions.
  • The Student Conservation Association and other youth organizations offer opportunities for kids to experience national parks.
  • Educators in our Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program offer a summer working in parks and then sharing that experience in the classroom during the school year.

In communities…

  • State Historic Preservation Officers and the Internal Revenue Service, review and approve projects that use federal tax credits to give historic buildings new lives.
  • States make Land and Water Conservation Fund grants to support local recreation projects.
  • Indian Tribes work on historic preservation.
  • Organizations provide volunteers, funding, logistical support, and advocacy for the National Trail System.
  • National heritage areas promote local history and encourage heritage tourism.
  • Communities help conserve rivers, preserve open space and develop trails and greenways.

 Partnerships are collaborative efforts between an NPS unit and another entity, such as cooperative associations, friends groups, Volunteers-in-Parks (VIPs), businesses, and concessioners. They also can include entities such as program providers, Conservation Corp, marketing agencies, tour operators, permit managers, special program supporters, tribal entities, artists-in-residence, volunteer groups, individuals, state and local governments, other federal agencies, scientists, scholars, gateway communities, media professionals, historical societies, museums, colleges and universities, school districts, tourism commissions, conservation groups, health organizations, and libraries.

These partnerships can be non-profit partners or for-profit partners, many of them generating revenue for the park unit, or some, like VIPs, providing voluntary help and services. They can be formal or informal alliances, short-term or long, a single individual or large corporation. They each offer to their partnering NPS unit a different type of support and are each governed by their unique authorities, director’s orders, laws, rules, and types of agreements required between them and the NPS unit.

Cooperating associations, friends groups, and Volunteers-in-Parks are all non-profit partners defined by nationalprogram guidance. Each is governed by its own director’s order. Cooperating Organizations are under Director’s Order #32, Friends Groups are under Director’s Order #21, and Volunteers-in-Parks are covered by Director’s Order #7.

Other non-profit partners are generally program or need specific and governed by regionaland park superintendentagreements.

For-profit partners are commercial operators, known as concessioners and lessees, with NPS contracts to provide necessary and/or appropriate visitor services such as food, lodging, recreational services and retail operations. They are governed by Director’s Order 48A.  The Commercial Services Program of the NPS administers more than 500 concession contracts with gross receipts totaling about $1 billion annually.

Other partners, such as large corporations, can be revenue generating partners, though not necessarily a commercial operator or non-profit entity, and are governed by specific types of agreements and/or contracts required by their NPS partner.

Partners of the National Park Foundation, NPS’s official charitable partner, who have contributed $1,000,000, and more to our national parks include Subaru, American Express, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, The Hallmark Channel, Hanes, L.L.Bean, Nature Valley, Nissan TITAN, and Union Pacific. Over 50 other organizations have contributed thousands more dollars or in-kind support. For a current list, see

NPS says “Through these partnerships, the Service has received valuable assistance in the form of educational programs, visitor services, living history demonstrations, search-and-rescue operations, fundraising campaigns, habitat restoration, scientific and scholarly research, ecosystem management, and a host of other activities. These partnerships have produced countless benefits for the Service and for the national park system… and produce or enhance products or services that help each partner achieve their vision consistent with their mission. Effective partnerships deliver better products and services than each player could independently.”

Who are Cabrillo National Monument Partners?

Cabrillo National Monument has a Cooperating Association (The Cabrillo National Monument Foundation), and a Volunteers-in-Parks program (VIP), along with many regional or program specific partners.

– Cooperating Associations

The Cabrillo National Monument Foundation (CNMF) serves as the Cooperating Association partner for Cabrillo National Monument.

Cooperating Associations are established under specific legislative authority to provide program or financial assistance to NPS in the areas of public educationinterpretation, research, and related visitor service activities. Association operations are an integrated part of interpretive service no different from exhibits, walks, talks, films, etc. Funding to support this work comes from income earned from the sales of educational and interpretive materials, conducting educational programs and field institutes, and raising contributions to support the interpretive and educational mission of the parks. The public face of the cooperating association is most often the park visitor center bookstore, and only organizations with a cooperating association agreement may operate these facilities. These associations have a general agreement with NPS renewable for five years, are guided by policy provided in Director’s Order #32: Cooperating Associations, are tax exempt (filing IRS 990), and serve and are accountable to the public. Together, NPS Cooperating Association bookstores are the largest independent bookseller in the country and in 2006 generated $82.5M net revenue and donated $52.7M to NPS Interpretation and Education such as cave exploration, trail rides, interpretive talks, reenactments, archaeology internships, museum purchases, and kids camps. In the 2008 fiscal year, 71 cooperating associations operated more than 100 outlets in 325 units of the National Park Service.

The purpose of CNMF is to provide program or financial assistance to CNM from income earned through donations, memberships, and sales of publications and educational items in the areas of public education, interpretation, research, and related visitor service activities. The public face of the Cooperating Association is the park visitor center and bookstore.

The mission of CNMF is to support and fund interpretive, cultural, historical, scientific and educational programs and activities at Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego’s only National Park.

CNMF’s Vision: Cabrillo National Monument is the premier supporter of the educational, interpretive, and scientific programs at Cabrillo National Monument, meeting the needs of the National Park Service.

CNMF began as the Cabrillo Historical Association in 1956 and has donated over $1.6M to CNM since then. Some of their recent projects include:


Ecological Effects of Trampling in the Tidepools

Lighthouse Tactile Sculptures

Exhibit Panel for the Military Wayside Exhibit on Fort Rosecrans

Initial Plans for the Old Point Loma Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters

Species inventory studies for plants and macro-invertebrates

Bat inventory

Development of a Larval Tracking Method

Other assistance to the park includes:

Publication of the quarterly newsletter Explorer

CNM’s elementary school education program

Acquisitions for the CNM library

KPBS promotion for CNM

Publication of a book on the Resources of the Point Loma Ecological Reserve

Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Program

The Foundation relies solely on revenues generated by the bookstore in the Visitor Center at the park, visitor convenience services, and the membership program to fund such things as the printing of the park brochure, subscriptions and books for the park library, living history programs and scientific research.

Special events like the Whale Watch Weekend and Intertidal Life Festival in January, Parks and Open Spaces in June, NPS Founder’s Day in August and the anniversary of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse in November are funded by the Foundation, as well as the education program that supports development, printing and distribution of materials used in conjunction with local schools and busing for students from economically-disadvantaged schools to visit the park. Cabrillo National Monument Foundation funds training, uniforms, and recognition of park volunteers.

Cabrillo National Monument Foundation:

– Friends Group

The Cabrillo National Monument Conservancy (CNMC) served as the CNM Friends Group from 2013 to 2019 and is currently inactive.

Friends Groups are any nonprofit organizations established primarily to assist or benefit a specific park area, a series of park areas, a program, or the entire National Park Systemand whose activities are governed by Director’s Order #21: Donations and Fundraising. Their mission includes fundraising, advocacy, and volunteer support. A friends group can be the vehicle to provide an outlet for citizens’ passion about a park’s mission. Groups vary in size, structure, and purpose and benefit NPS in various ways, such as providing volunteer services, assisting with resource management and preservation, conducting fund-raising efforts, and publicizing important issues. Funding to support the activities of the group come from events, donations, memberships, and, often to a lesser extent, earned income from sales online or off-site. Each group has a general agreement with NPS renewable for five years and is tax exempt (filing IRS 990). In 2010 there were over 200 self-identified friends groups serving the NPS, and in 2004 NPS Friends Groups donated about $35M in cash support and $14M in non-cash support to the NPS.

– Volunteers-in-Parks

Cabrillo National Monument has a long-standing, very robust volunteer program.

A Volunteers-in-Parks program provides park support as outlined in Director’s Order #7: Volunteers-in-Parks. The primary purpose of the VIP program is to provide a vehicle through which the National Park Service can accept and utilize services and voluntary help in labor and expertise from the public ( All NPS units have volunteer support. In the 2005 fiscal year, 137,000 volunteers donated 5.2M hours to NPS, a value of $91.2M.

The primary objective of the VIP Program at Cabrillo National Monument is to assist the rangers in meeting the NPS and CNM missions by providing labor, expertise, skills, and talents to all areas of the park, such as:

Living history

Tidepool Protection, Education, and Restoration Program (TPERP)


Visitor Center and entry gate

Community outreach

Tidepool, Herpetology, and Bird Monitoring

Greenhouse cultivation and non-native species removal

Curatorial maintenance, lighthouse, and museums





In 2012, CNM’s 192 VIPs contributed more than 9300 hours for a total monetary value of $219,521.

Cabrillo National Monument Volunteers-in-Parks:

– Commercial Services

Cabrillo National Monument has no commercial operators at this time.

Operators/Concessioners/Lessees are for-profit organizations and are businesses with which NPS contracts to provide necessary and/or appropriate visitor services such as food, lodging, recreational services, and retail operations. They have a signed contract, lease, or commercial use authorization that has typically been issued subject to a competitive bidding process. As of October 2012, over 100 National Parks had commercial operators comprised of over 600 concessioners grossing more than $1 billion every year.

– Other Cabrillo National Monument Partners 

– Cabrillo National Monument has joined with the other federal and city landowners on the Point Loma peninsula to form the Point Loma Ecological Conservation Area (PLECA). The five agencies collaborate to manage nearly 700 acres of protected and endangered habitat.

– In partnership with the San Diego Maritime Museum, the Maritime Museum built a replica of the San Salvador, Cabrillo’s flagship.

– Some of the other organizations CNM has, or had, partnership agreements with include:

– Hornblower cruises

– Amtrak Trails and Rails program

– The National Parks Conservation Association

– The National Park Foundation

– Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network

– The American Latino Heritage Fund

– High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network

– NPS Southern California Research Learning Center

– Coastal Southern California Science and Learning

– SD Children and Nature

– UCLA’s National Center for History in the Schools

– UCLA/La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science

– San Diego Unified School District (Ticket to Ride)

– Educational Innovation for Teaching and Learning

– United States Geologic Survey

– Association of Partners for Public Lands

– California Mediterranean Research Learning Center

– Commission on Science That Matters, Elementary Institute of Science/Groundwork San Diego

– US Citizenship and Immigration Services

– Pala Native American Learning Center

– Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans

– Naval Base Point Loma

– and more


This document is excerpted from several NPS websites, documents, and individuals including:

Management Policies 2006: The Guide to Managing the National Park System

Director’s Order 32: Cooperating Associations

Director’s Order 21: Donations and Fundraising

Director’s Order 7: Volunteers-in-Parks

Interpretive Development Program Module 320

Partnerships Program Chief, Pacific West Regional Office National Park Service

National Park Service website on Partnerships

Last revised 08-Feb-19

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