The Community of the California Central Valley
Fresno's metropolitan area has a population of 505,882 and the county's population is 994,400 as of 2018. The eight counties that make up the Central Valley have a population of 3,971,659 as of 2010. Cultural events are numerous and feature such groups as the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra, the Fresno Arts Center, the Fresno Metropolitan Museum, community theater and music groups, and the University's Arts programs. The Save Mart Center at Fresno State, seating 16,182, hosts many of the best shows, musicians and events in the country. Chukchansi Park in downtown Fresno is the baseball home of the Fresno Grizzlies, the Triple-A Affiliate for the Washington Nationals.
Fresno is the only place in the nation within an easy drive of three national parks: Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon. The Pacific Ocean and the central coastal beaches of California can be reached from Fresno in two hours by car. It is not surprising then that much of Fresno's recreational and social life centers on the outdoors. Boating, fishing, water skiing, and windsurfing at one of the six nearby lakes are popular activities during the spring and summer. Winter recreation includes downhill skiing and cross-country skiing at nearby Sierra Summit or Badger Pass in the beautiful Sierra mountains. The San Joaquin River Restoration Project began in 2009 in an effort to "restore a self-sustaining Chinook salmon fishery in the river while reducing or avoiding adverse water supply impacts from restoration flows."
The San Joaquin Valley is the residence of over seventy distinct ethnic and cultural groups. Among the more prominent groups, the largest populations include Latinos/Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, and Southeast Asians. Fresno County has the largest population of Hmong and Laotian in the United States. Significant percentages of these groups are marginalized and suffer from extreme poverty and under-employment.
The most extensive ethnic population in the university's service area is Latinos/Hispanic (53.5%), many of whom are seasonal/migrant farm workers. These workers and their families are dependent on an agricultural industry which has become mechanized, highly technical, and corporate in scope. The human service agencies that serve these special populations range in complexity from sophisticated, multi-purpose institutions with large, professionally trained social work staff, to small community based advocacy groups with no professionally-trained social workers on staff.