By buying a license plate, California motorists already can show their love for Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and the state’s beaches, along with firefighters, museums and other programs.
Now another cause may be coming to bumpers across the state — NFL teams. On Monday, California’s Natural Resources Agency, which runs the state parks department, announced it is sponsoring a specialty license plate with the San Francisco 49ers Foundation to raise money for state parks programs.
The proposed plate has the 49ers logo on it, with the words “Faithful to State Parks.”
Overall, 75% of the proceeds from sales would go to the state’s “Outdoors for All” program, which aims to expand access to parks to underserved communities, along with other state parks projects.
“It’s important that Californians have equitable access to parks,” said Lisa Lien-Mager, a spokeswoman for the state Natural Resources Agency. “It shouldn’t depend on your zip code. A lot of Californians don’t have parks in their neighborhoods. We are trying to invest in parks-poor places and expand access.”
The 49ers Foundation also would receive 25% the proceeds for the team’s youth and science education programs.
The specialty NFL plates will cost $50 initially and then $40 per year to renew. A personalized plate fee is $103 and $83 to renew. They are eligible for autos, trucks, motorcycles or trailers, and only for California vehicles. More information is at 49ersplates.com
But just like an extra point on a rainy day, the future of the license plate is no sure thing. Under state law, 7,500 people must pre-purchase orders before the Department of Motor Vehicles will produce any new specialty plate.
Justin Prettyman, executive director of the 49ers Foundation, said that the team will promote the plate at its games this fall, and is planning to have team legend Jerry Rice help in the effort.
“We are very intentional in encouraging students and children to play,” Prettyman said. “It’s not an emphasis on football as much as being active. It’s a no brainer for us.”
In February, the Los Angeles Rams announced a similar specialty plate campaign, with funding also going to expand parks access.
Such plates can be major money makers.
California has 14 specialty license plates. More than $200 million has been raised over the years, from the Yosemite plate which funds projects in Yosemite National Park; a Snoopy plate that raises money for California museums; a whale-tail plate that has generated money for beach cleanups and coastal programs; a veterans plate for military veterans programs and other specialty plates.
But they don’t always succeed.
In recent years, other attempted plates to raise money for environmental causes, including a redwoods plate in 2017 to help fund redwood protection in parks and a Salton Sea plate to fund restoration of that beleaguered body of water in Imperial County, have died after not being able to reach the 7,500 mark.
In 2010, a plate with an image of the Golden Gate Bridge — whose backers hoped it would raise $1 million a year for the California Coastal Conservancy — failed to secure enough buyers, as did a plate featuring an image of bear and a mountain, that would have funded projects of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a state agency.
Like the other plates, if the 49ers plate doesn’t secure 7,500 pre-orders, refunds will be given to people who signed up to purchase it.
California’s most popular commemorative plates first came out in the 1990s, with big splashy artwork.
But complicating the trend is a state law, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, that limited the size of the art work on the plates. Prompted by concerns from the California Highway Patrol that officers were having a hard time reading the license plate numbers, the law required that any logo be no larger than 2 inches by 3 inches — about the size of a business card.
So 49ers fans wanting a big image of five Super Bowl trophies on the 49ers plate, or Dwight Clark pulling in “The Catch” will have to wait. The team says it feels good, nevertheless, about hitting the 7,500 plate goal.
“We’re confident we’ll get there,” said Prettyman. “There are a lot of people who are 49ers fans, and a lot of people who are fans of state parks.”