Bring a Bit of Nature back into your Weekend

The birds are singing, dried wood littering the forest floor is crunching beneath your feet and there is a glistening lake laid out before you. Getting right back to nature—is there a more memorable adventurous type of weekend out there for families? Certainly not, especially when you consider the amount of freedom that is provided when we step out of the rat race and discover really what nature has to offer. State parks provide a great way to explore the wilderness with ease, and ensure these beautiful areas of our Californian state will always remain that way for generation upon generation to enjoy.

©Mike Shoys, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

©Mike Shoys, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

Discover Something New

Children are of course forever looking to discover something new, to interpret the world in a different exciting manner by hunting out the adventure. Who can blame them, there is surely a small part of this in every adult as well, which is why visiting state parks can be the basis of a great weekend that has something to offer for the whole family. Discover giants with your children—giant sequoias and coastal redwoods are protected by the state in the parks, and the feeling of awe when walking through these is second to none. In fact 95% of coastal redwood has been logged, which is a grave tragedy. The fact that they will always be persevered in state parks is just another reason to visit on your next vacation. The history of California is prevalent throughout the parks, whether that is seen in the age-old ringing chimes of nature or the Fischer-Hanlon House in Benicia Capitol State Historic, Park, where you will be able to truly experience 19th century upper middle class family life. History is truly prevalent throughout all the state parks. Why not rent a family-sized RV to travel between the state parks to ensure not one inch of the natural beauty here is missed?

©Tom Birdsell, Point Cabrillo Light Station

©Tom Birdsell, Point Cabrillo Light Station

The Leading Star in Any Trip

There is a wealth of activities on offer in these parks. Get back to basics and look up at the night sky—there are several parks that offer astronomy programs, and even observatories, creating those unforgettable, once in a life time experiences. California is in itself a fabulously diverse state with a range of things to offer whether you like trips by the beach, in the mountains or in the city. Santa Monica Mirror reported that for the Memorial Day Weekend more than 2.6 million Southern Californians were expected to travel more than fifty miles. In a state that is so diverse, though, this relatively small distance can land you in almost a different plant. It would be a massive shame to miss out on the huge array of different state parks on any trip to this varied place. Of course with such a sunny climate, California is a great tourist destination no matter what you are looking for, but to create something really special, take off from the normal tourist routes and travel around some of the beautiful state parks of California.  The great thing about these parks is that they are so accessible and dotted all over the state making it a great experience to incorporate in any vacation, whatever you have in mind.

©Elin Ljung, Mono Lake

©Elin Ljung, Mono Lake

Make a Splash

California’s state parks aren’t just about trekking around and taking in the picturesque sights, there are also a great many number of water based activities to occupy your families’ time on a weekend trip, including power boating on a lake or simply taking part in a leisurely canoe tour. So many of these parks provide the perfect backdrop into a world of escapism. Why not visit Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Parks, where you can get lost in a lava-scarred land only accessible by boat. What kid—or adult for that matter—would not want to explore all that there is on offer here. There is something surely so innate, so peaceful about spending time on the world’s waterways, and California most certainly has its fair share of beautiful spots to visit whilst taking vacation.

The fact of the matter is that California is teeming with a wealth of different experiences, adventures and forms of escapism just waiting to be taken, but for a real trip back into the natural beauty of this state, and to really get a feel of all that is on offer, there really is no greater weekend than that which is built around trips to the fabulously diverse state parks. California is forever changing and modernizing like everywhere else in the world, but the state parks without a doubt provide a solid piece of nature that we must always treasure.

CONTRIBUTED BY SITE READER SUSIE COMPTON

 

Take Your Kids To A State Park and Improve Their Health

California is rich in state parks. Lakes, mountains, beaches, forests, historical features, culture, and camping – there’s a park for everyone, and all tastes can be accommodated within the gorgeous, soaring scenery. Visiting a state park, however, may be particularly beneficial if you want to get your children into a fit and healthy way of life. From gaining essential nutrients to staving off illnesses like depression and attention-deficit disorders, research is consistently proving that getting them out into nature is one of the absolute best things you can do for your kids. Here is why:

Get Some Vitamin D

photo1Going outside is massively beneficial from a nutritional point of view. This may seem like an odd claim to make, as the act of simply strolling through a state park does not involve an awful lot of eating. The simple fact is, however, that the body cannot gain enough of Vitamin D – a vitamin essential for absorbing calcium and growing healthy bones – through food alone. It is made naturally by the skin when bare flesh is exposed to sunlight. You don’t need to fry your skin in the sun to gain enough Vitamin D. It is produced very quickly – so do be careful not to let your children burn! So important is Vitamin D that people living in northern climes where it is hard to get sunshine on the skin are strongly advised to take supplements like Walgreen’s “Nature Made” Vitamin D capsules. This is important, as studies in London have found that low levels of Vitamin D lead to “risk of depression in mid-adulthood” and panic disorders. Lack of vitamin D in children has been linked not only to mood disorders like depression, but to skeletal diseases like rickets caused by insufficient calcium absorption. Of course, if you want your children to get all the benefits of vitamin D then you need to make sure that they’re getting plenty of calcium as well. Companies like Yoplait make yogurts which are stuffed full of both calcium and vitamin D – a winning combination given that, as Yoplait point out, “Studies show that calcium absorption improves when taken along with vitamin D”.

Encourage A Healthy Lifestyle

photo2Vitamin D is not only beneficial from a nutritional point of view, however. It – and the healthy outdoor lifestyle with which it is associated – have been linked to general participation in healthy behaviors. Studies have found that people with low levels of Vitamin D are not only susceptible to fatal illnesses like cancer and heart disease, but are also likely to lead highly unhealthy lifestyles. The New York Times reports that “blood levels of Vitamin D are a good barometer of overall health”, and also makes the link between low levels of Vitamin D and “behaviors that contribute to poor health, like a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and a diet heavy in processed and unhealthful foods”. As Kwikmed point out, “obesity levels are on the increase, and this is due to a lack of exercise combined with a bad diet”, so making sure that your children understand about healthy behaviors is absolutely vital if they are not to fall pretty to these increasingly prevalent lifestyle factors. Introducing your children to healthy lifestyle choices that they actually enjoy, such as walking in California’s state parks will therefore not only ensure that they soak up plenty of life-giving Vitamin D, it may also ensure that they develop an appreciation for the need to make healthy choices and care for their bodies. Children who understand that an alternative, healthier lifestyle exists are much more likely to make healthy nutritional choices as they grow older, and treat their bodies with the care that they deserve.

Learn To Walk

090-P65157Something as simple as taking your children for a walk through California’s beautiful state parks could have untold benefits for their future health and mentalities. Obviously, walking is excellent exercise. Harvard Medical School note that “walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, vascular stiffness and inflammation” as well as promoting strong bone growth and a healthy musculature. However, studies have also shown that walking through a natural environment can have fantastic effects upon the mind as well as the body. Meredith Melnick, writing for Time magazine, states that walking can induce a semi-meditative state highly conducive to positive mental health – “walking is a good opportunity to process the day and let my mind wander without the oppression of the endless to-do list that awaits me at home”. While this effect can be gained through walking in an urban environment, walking through a state park enhances it a hundredfold. In his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’, author Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” – a blanket phrase covering a multitude of childhood problems (such as obesity, depression, and attention disorders). He presents compelling evidence that such disorders are caused (indirectly) through a lack of exposure to and engagement with the natural environment. In an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, he relates his view that a reconnection with nature could improve childhood immensely and pave the way for a happy and productive adulthood. “I’ve lost count of the number of teachers and youth leaders who have told me how different kids become when you get them out into nature. Trouble-makers become leaders. Nature is their Ritalin.”

Get Out, Get Active, Get Healthy

photo4So, if you want your children to become fit, healthy adults with a firm appreciation of the benefits of nature, good mental health, and a willingness to make healthy lifestyle choices, it seems that a day out in one of California’s beautiful state parks may be just the thing!

CONTRIBUTED BY SITE READER SUSIE COMPTON

 

California state parks are great places to …

How do you finish the sentence?

Take a hike? Be a team player? See a star?

We think the possibilities are endless! That’s why we have started a new campaign to collect photos and stories from park users to learn why they think state parks are great. Check out the Great Places campaign here.

greatplaces_banner_collageWe have received some fantastic photos so far. You can see them all on our Flickr page.

We’d love to see your photos! Upload your Great Places images to our campaign webpage now.  We may include them in upcoming communications to our members (email and social media) as well as in our Great Places expo taking place during Park Advocacy Day.

Know Your History, Know Your Parks

CSPF’s third Hidden Stories Series conference, Folding Back the Layers of California’s Latino/a History: The Stories Beneath the Stories, is taking place on October 2 and 3 in Los Angeles.

The 2013 Hidden Stories conference will explore Latino history in the context of California’s state parks. This conference seeks to go beyond existing interpretation of historical Latino figures to look at “the stories beneath the stories,” or going beyond what is commonly known in order to uncover how these figures shaped our history, influenced our society, and left permanent, although unrecognized, impressions on our state.

Find out more info…

SNEAK PEEK: California Citrus State Historic Park

Citrus Apr13 450One Hidden Stories presenter will be José Alamillo, Ph.D., Full Professor and Coordinator of the Chicana/o Studies Program at California State University, Channel Islands. His Hidden Stories presentation is titled “California Citrus State Historic Park and Mexican American Neighborhoods.”

Here’s a sneak peek of his presentation:

“Latino neighborhoods did not only originate in urban cities but also in rural and suburban areas near railroads, mines and agricultural fields. As the citrus industry expanded in the late 19th century it became a strong economic engine for the state of California. To remain profitable however it recruited foreign labor from Asia and Latin America. Mexican workers increasingly became the largest labor force during the 1920s due to stable employment and family housing provided by growers. Mexican American neighborhoods emerged with the development of California citrus industry like Santa Paula, Pomona, Orange, San Dimas, and Casa Blanca, Eastside Riverside, and Corona.”

If you would like to learn more about this and other topics surrounding California’s historic Latino population then please join us at this year’s conference!

Conference and ticket information can be found here.  PS early bird ticket prices end September 10!

Thanks Professor Alamillo!

Are parks still relevant?

There is an interesting article published in The Economist this month about declining visitation numbers in national parks, particularly among young Americans. The article, “Why go outside when you have an iPhone?,” concludes that today’s youth are more interested in roller coasters and techie entertainment than they are in our natural spaces.

“The National Park Service has all manner of explanations for its stagnating popularity. The simplest is that other forms of entertainment are distracting Americans from its charms. As Jonathan Jarvis, its director, put it in 2011: “There are times when it seems as if the national parks have never been more passé than in the age of the iPhone.” A spokesman cites the proliferation of middle-class holiday options in recent decades, from time-share accommodation that makes a regular stay at the beach affordable to family-focused developments in spots like central Florida and Las Vegas.”

Read the full article here.

In a world of Facebook, Wi-Fi and endless gadgets, this conclusion makes sense. Couple this with tough economic times and high gas prices, and it is no surprise that fewer families are taking road trips to America’s national parks.

There is something greatly unsettling about this trend. Because truly, it seems like Americans could benefit from parks and natural spaces now more than ever before.

As someone who is an established park lover, “Why go outside when you have an iPhone?” seems like a silly question. I go outside precisely because I have an iPhone … so I can turn it off, escape my screens, and get away from the hustle and bustle of my city, job and never-ending email. I’d venture to guess that many of my fellow park lovers feel the same way. The natural world is an amazing respite from our 21st Century lives.

Yet I only know the benefits because I have already been exposed to them and have experienced them first hand. Not everyone has had these experiences.

As the article goes on to explain, there are entire new generations growing up in America who don’t know what they are missing … because they have never been introduced to the parks, and they have no reason to be. They have no cultural connection, no personal history in the parks, and plenty of distractions to keep their attention elsewhere. America has become more diverse, but parks have not diversified their appeal.

Future-Park-LoversThis is an interesting challenge for an organization like ours. How can we make our natural spaces and parks relevant, accessible and important to ALL Americans? Our California state parks, in particular, offer an amazing array of natural, cultural and historical resources across the entire state. Whether or not Californians know about these places, prefer them as a destination or truly value them in their lives is a question we want to explore further.

Yesterday we held a meeting of the minds to discuss these very concepts. With a room full of diverse experts, we explored relevancy of state parks to the diverse California population, and the things that drive different people to explore and experience the outdoors. We plan to continue this work and hope you will stay engaged with us as we strive to engage more people with California state parks than ever before.

We truly believe that everyone can benefit from connecting with their state parks. If that means introducing parks to new generations of Californians and Americans, then we are up for the challenge.

What’s your response to, “Why go outside when you have an iPhone?”?

- Alexis Stoxen, California State Parks Foundation

Having a Safe Summer Outdoors

A guest post BY TRISTAN ROBERTS

Tristan Roberts is a writer and agent who sells real estate in the Tahoe area and who loves spending every minute he can on the Lake Tahoe shores.

Emerald Bay State Park, photo © Claire Toney

Emerald Bay State Park, photo © Claire Toney

This time of year America’s parks and lakes fill up with families enjoying beautiful scenery and weather. I know that the Lake Tahoe lakefront fills up with locals and visitors alike so quickly that it can become difficult to find enough space to lay out a towel. Unfortunately, extreme heat, unfamiliar terrain, and risky behaviors can lead to injuries. By following just a few simple tips you can avoid any trouble and have a fun, safe summer outdoors.

  • Dehydration

One of the most common causes of summer hospital visits for people of all ages is dehydration. Drinking enough water is important at any time of year, but if you’re spending your days outside in the sun and the heat, it becomes critical. Drinking anywhere from 8-10 8oz glasses of water each day can help fend off dehydration, and paying close attention to your body will help you catch any symptoms early.

If you notice that you’re hot but you aren’t sweating, or if you develop dry mouth, get out of the sun and start pushing fluids. If you feel dizzy, weak, or faint, you may need to seek medical care. Be sure to avoid liquids that dehydrate you, such as coffee or caffeinated soda.

  • Sun burns

As unpleasant as a mild burn can be, nobody wants to cope with a hospital-worthy sun burn. Many people forget that when they’re next to a body of water, the sun is hitting them from two directions. Obviously remember your sunscreen, but if you’re going to be out in the sun for most of the day, keep a long-sleeved, light colored shirt handy to protect your skin from as much exposure as you can. Choose breathable fabrics that will allow you to keep cool as well.

  • Don’t go alone

The buddy system exists for a reason. Hiking or swimming alone is just dangerous behavior. Just ask the guy from “127 Hours.” Bringing a friend will add to your fun and prevent any situation where you wind up stranded alone.

  • Know the rules

Whether you’re on the water or in a state park, know the rules. Do you need a life vest? Are there wild animals who you should prepare to encounter? Will you require some kind of license or permit? Whatever you’re doing this summer, investigate any rules or regulations that you’ll need to follow before you head out so that you’ll be prepared for any event.

Enjoy your safe summer in the parks!

CSPF Says Goodbye to Huell Howser

It is with great sadness that we must say goodbye to Huell Howser. Huell was a great friend to California state parks and CSPF.  He brought enormous enthusiasm and skill to the telling of state parks’ stories.  Huell showed California’s state parks to millions of viewers, and we are grateful for his many years of support for our parks.

In addition to “California’s Gold,” Huell ran a series from 2002 to 2010 called “California’s Golden Parks,” which showcased different state parks each month. You can read more about the “California’s Golden Parks” episodes here: calgold.com/goldenparks or watch them here: parks.ca.gov/video_parks.

Here’s an excerpt from a classic visit to Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve:

 

We will all remember him with great fondness.

More money, more problems

As we reported a few weeks ago, it was discovered and publicly disclosed that the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) had been hiding approximately $54 million in surplus funds for the past 12 years.  The parks community was shocked, surprised and angry to discover this news.  Why have we fought so hard against park closures and budget cuts when there was more money available to DPR?

Sonoma Coast State Beach. Photo by Mike Ryan.

Now that the dust has settled a little and audits are underway, it is clear to us the money that was “discovered” may or may not be used for its intended purpose: for the maintenance of our state parks.  It is up to the Legislature where that money should go, a decision they must make in the next 9 days before the legislative session ends for the year.

We are lobbying the Legislature to allocate the recently-identified $20.3 million in funding from the State Parks and Recreation Fund (SPRF) for use in state parks.  SPRF money comes from state park fees for day-use admission or parking, overnight camping or boating, and more.  We are concerned that the SPRF money is becoming a tempting target for budget raiding. After more than 14 months of tremendous work in communities around the state to keep our parks open, it would only add insult to injury for the Legislature to put those funds elsewhere or, even worse, claim to put them into state parks but simply reduce the park system’s General Fund allocation at the same time.

That said, we are asking for help in urging legislators to maintain access and support for California’s state parks by directing the recently-identified and unspent state park funds back into the state park system. Please join more than 3,000 park advocates who have already take action and use our online system to send a message to your legislators and the governor urging them to allocate these funds back into our state park system.

Your action is extremely important, as policymakers are expected to make a decision in the next week about how to allocate this funding.

Murmurs of Generosity

We at CalPark Voices love sharing the stories of those artists who use their creative talents to help state parks in unique ways. Today we have a new artist to add to the Awesome Artist Hall of Fame.

Katherine Kean is a painter who was inspired to donate the proceeds of her newest art exhibit to CSPF.

As an environmentalist, I believe in promoting the protection of birds and other wildlife through education, art, and restoration, as well as promoting a sustainable future for California while re-connecting people to the intrinsic beauty of the environment,” said Katherine.  “My contributions to the California State Parks Foundation will continue as work from this series continues to sell.”

Her exhibit, Murmuration, is a series of paintings exploring the kinetic character of birds and nature. First exhibited at TAG Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, CA this spring, a portion of the exhibition has moved on to be a part of a group exhibition at The Modest Fly Art Studio Gallery in Tujunga, CA.

SIDENOTE: If you don’t know what a Murmuration is, watch this and this!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To depict the beauty and sensation of the flock’s aerial choreography, Katherine paints the birds, glazes them over, then repaints. She repeats the process several times to allow the edges to blur and, when appropriate, disappear into the background. As a result, what first appears as a smudge in the evening sky gradually takes shape, forming and reforming, occasionally allowing a wing, beak, or tail to stand out from the fluctuating chaos.

Extending the idea and organization of flocking birds, many of the paintings in this exhibition also form parts of a whole. Among the paintings are two triptychs, a two-piece modular painting, and a series of small squares that can be re-arranged to form various patterns of bird flight.

“At a particular time at the end of the day birds gather in large numbers and swoop back and forth across the sky, emerging from the dusk like a dark cloud and creating elegant patterns against the fading light,” said Katherine. “How and why they do this is a mystery, but whatever the reason this behavior is compelling to observe as individual birds disappear into the whole and become part of something larger.”

Thank you to Katherine for choosing CSPF as a beneficiary of your beautiful artwork!

Read more about Katherine’s work on her website.