The Bowtie Parcel Offers Inspiring Community Space in Los Angeles

 

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The Bowtie Parcel. Photo by Michelle White

GUEST BLOG BY PARK CHAMPIONS CORE LEADER MICHELLE WHITE

 

In central Los Angeles, adjacent to Rio de Los Angeles State Park, lies a bowtie-shaped piece of land that feels simultaneously scruffy and tranquil. Known as the Bowtie Parcel, these 18 acres of post-industrial land reside within the former Taylor Yard, a Southern Pacific Railroad service facility.

The Bowtie, acquired by California State Parks in 2003, reveals the potential of imagination and transformation, akin to New York’s High Line, a rail line transformed into a landscaped urban paseo with Hudson River and skyscraper views. Within such dense metropolises, the ability to consciously redevelop once-blighted space and bring more nature to city dwellers reflects the substantial impact of space upon social relations. As Luis Rincon, Community Engagement Coordinator for California State Parks, says, “The health and vitality of a community depend on its green space, its open space.”

Setting foot into the Bowtie immediately evokes the immense variety and messy juxtaposition of nature and urbanity that represents Los Angeles as a whole, and the history of its river. White noise from not-too-distant freeways meets the rush of the river. Carefully-designed “earthworks” and interpretive signage meet furtively-scrawled graffiti. Bikers whizz by on land, while ducks cruise by on the water. Non-native fountain grass and Mexican fan palms meet and overtake decomposed asphalt, displaying nature’s uncanny ability to reclaim over time. Fragrant native plants white sage and yerba santa meet the vaguely chlorinated smell of the river. Concrete banks meet soft-bottom riverbed.

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The Bowtie Parcel. Photo by Michelle White

With the July 2015 passage of a $1.3-billion plan to revitalize the LA River, now pending approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and Congress, the Bowtie is already unique in its placement along the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows section of the river. In these 11 miles roughly between the 134 and 110 freeways, cement never set over the high water table, so while channelization severely disrupted the riparian habitat, wildlife returned to this area over time. Concrete still slopes down to the water, but Arundo donax (giant cane), an invasive grass from Southeast Asia, grows along the water in lush abundance, softening the scene – and preventing erosion. Herons, cormorants, egrets, carp and green sunfish call the river home. It’s an unexpected oasis.

Due to placement of the railroad adjacent to the LA River in the 1870s and channelization of the river in the 1930s, LA has remained fundamentally disconnected from its river as a recreational amenity for more than a century. However, groups such as Friends of the LA River, Play LA River, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the arts organization Clockshop have all worked to revitalize sections of the river.

In particular, Clockshop installed guerilla art and interpretive signage at the Bowtie, working with local artists and Woodbury Architecture for Civic Engagement (ACE) students, and facilitated events such as moonlit poetry readings, rain barrel workshops and urban campouts.

This past weekend Clockshop in partnership with California State Parks and the National Park Service, hosted an LA River Campout at Bowtie. The popular reoccurring event offers Angelenos the opportunity to spend the night at the Bowtie, complete with dinner, campfire programming, and a survey of local flora and fauna. The Bowtie provides a central city setting to learn about LA’s abundant nature coexisting with the concrete, and to connect with community. As Rincon sums up, “The space is there, but when you add the people and the energy, it makes it come alive.”

Find more about the Bowtie, Clockshop and the LA River Campout here.

Celebrate Mother’s Day in CA State Parks

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 8. Looking for a unique way to celebrate mom? This year, think more wildflower than bouquet, more Mother Nature than brunch. Here are some outdoor outings perfect for the California mom in your life:

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View from Rancho del Oso by David Baron

Wander the Coast

Bring mom on a 1 mile, 1.5 hour guided walk with docent naturalist Ann Garside at Rancho del Oso (the coastal portion of Big Basin in Davenport). The group will walk from coastal scrub through one of the last native stands of Monterey Pine left in the world, enjoying the blooms along the way.

More info

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Empire Mine State Historic Park by Pat Sullivan

Enjoy a Spring Picnic

Pack up a picnic and head to the Empire Gardens at Empire Mine State Historic Park from 11am to 4pm Sunday. You can visit with the costumes characters in many of the buildings, enjoy music and children’s activities. Food vendors will be available from 11 am to 2pm or you can bring in a picnic lunch to enjoy inside the Park. (Picnics are allowed inside the Historic Grounds & Gardens only 4 days a year!)

More info

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A hiker in Big Basin Redwoods by TrongQuyen Nguyen

Take a Hike

Get mom out of dodge and go enjoy one of the countless hikes in California state parks. Bring her to your favorite trail, or look for new routes recommended by our partner Weekend Sherpa.

If you’d like something a little more organized, join a two and a half mile, two hour guided hike along Mills Creek at Burleigh H. Murray Ranch State Park. Enjoy one of our areas hidden treasures as you learn about the lives of the first pioneers and farming families.

More info

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Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park photo by David Fulmer 

Serve Breakfast in Tent

If your mom is on the more adventurous side, take her camping! Here are some great Bay Area campsites to choose from. In the morning, you can serve her breakfast in her tent.

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Ferry ride to Angel Island

Set Sail

For an extra unique afternoon, treat Mom to a ferry ride to Angel Island, where you can spend the afternoon on a guided hike to Angel Island’s Historic Camp Reynolds, where you’ll be greeted with a pizza lunch at the historic bake house.  After lunch, enjoy mimosas at Battery Ledyard and the best photo ops the Bay Area has to offer of the San Francisco Skyline, San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. From there, hop in an open-air tram for a quick jaunt back to the cafe at Ayala Cove to catch the 3:20 p.m. ferry back to Tiburon.

More info

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Jack London State Historic Park by Kate Dollarhyde

Find Zen

Learn about mindful walking meditation during a 4.5 -mile hike in Jack London State Historic Park on Saturday. Hike leader and docent Jeff Falconer will give an overview at 10 a.m. of walking meditation that has been used as a healing tool during a 1.5-mile hike to Jack London’s lake before you embark on a 3-mile hike, 2-hour hike between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Meet at the Ranch parking lot.

More info

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D.L. Bliss State Park by Ray Bouknight

Head to the Lake

You know the ocean beaches, but don’t forget about our lakeside beaches, like Calawee Cove Beach along Lake Tahoe.

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Polo at Will Rogers by Nancy Jackson

Catch a Polo Match

Bring a blanket and a picnic brunch to Will Rogers State Historic Park and watch horses pound up and down the field right before you.  Learn a little bit about polo, watch a match and then hike the park or tour Will Rogers old house (he was a huge horse and polo fan). Matches are free and open to the public all summer.  There are matches most Saturdays from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

More info

Where will you go this Mother’s Day?

Take It Outside, California!

26222329370_0573293b7a_oThis weekend, April 30 and May 1, is Take It Outside, California! It’s an annual event, organized by our partner California Council of Land Trusts, encouraging Californians to get outside and enjoy our parks and open spaces.

Organizations all over California are planning outdoor events for you to enjoy, including ours! We invite Californians to enjoy healthy activities, celebrate our public lands, and Take It Outside, California! next weekend with our special Park Champions work days.

We have planned 5 special, family-friendly volunteer workdays in state parks in partnership with Take It Outside. All tools and training provided. Projects over 3 hours also include lunch.

Will Rogers, Baldwin Hills and Rio de Los Angeles are still looking for volunteers. Register on our website to participate. 

If these parks aren’t in your area, visit Take It Outside California! to discover new parks near you, and sign the pledge to take it outside. Free public activities include a guided dog walk, family festival, kite flying, creek exploration, outdoor Zumba, and a cardio hike with yoga (yiking!).

See you out there.

Huge Step Forward for Land and Water Conservation Fund

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Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz. Photo by Stanislav Sedov via Flickr

Great news today for the protection of our open spaces.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed a permanent authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), after the previous one expired last fall. This is a huge step forward. In fact, on the way to passage, a damaging amendment was voted down summarily. The House has already passed a bill and the two bills will be taken up in conference committee and reconciled.

The battle to get reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation has been hard fought over the last year. And the fight to ensure that adequate funding moved into LWCF has been going on for much longer. CSPF has participated in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, a very large coalition effort to speak up on behalf of full funding and more recently the reauthorization, helping as need be, with the California delegation. You may remember we collected letters from Californians in late 2015 for this purpose.

The LWCF is the single largest federal source of funding for conservation in the United States. It is funded from off-shore oil and gas royalties, and was intended to fund $900 million in conservation projects annually. Although it has rarely hit that mark of funding, it has done enormous good anyway with thousands of projects funded here in California, in state parks, in particular, but all of the parks systems the state hosts.

The steps ahead are not certain but this is such an important milestone that we wanted to share the good news.

You can read today’s press release from the Coalition here: LWCF Coalition Statement – Senate Energy Bill Final.

Let’s keep up the good work!

 

Thank You for a Great Earth Day

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Earth Day volunteers hunt for debris at Sonoma Coast State Park in Jenner.

Thank you, CSPF members, supporters, and volunteers — you pulled off another great Earth Day event this past Saturday!

Over 2,000 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and tackled dozens of improvement projects at 27 state parks from Mendocino down to Los Angeles. They removed invasive plants and graffiti, installed picnic benches and displays, built food storage lockers, installed drip irrigation systems, painted work sheds and bathrooms, picked up trash along shorelines and lakes, planted native shrubs and bushes, and more.

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Volunteers plant and water native species at Candlestick Point.

See photos and details of each park here.

These thousands of contributed volunteer hours helped get parks ready for the busy summer season, which is especially important given the continued budget restrictions affecting the state parks system.

In addition to volunteering, hundreds of you made donations to our Earth Day Campaign. Thanks to you, we hit the $15,000 target and earned the matching grant from our friends at The Donner Foundation.

Thank you one and all for your generosity! You’re making great things happen for the parks we all love.

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Volunteers at Crystal Cove enjoyed a beautiful view while they worked.

Would you like more opportunities to volunteer in parks? Maybe you came to Earth Day and had a good time, or maybe you were sad to miss it and would like to try another time. Either way, check out our Park Champions program.  We have several volunteer events each month, including some special events next weekend in partnership with Take It Outside, California! 

 

 

Earth Day is made possible by our presenting sponsor Pacific Gas and Electric Company, associate sponsors SUBWAY Restaurants, Edison International and Oracle, and grant providers Microsoft, Southern California Gas Company, Goldman Sachs, The Nature Conservancy — and YOU, our members.

A Day in the Life: Earth Day Volunteer

Our Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup Event is next Saturday, April 16. We need volunteers to join us to work on much-needed improvement projects at 27 state parks across California. Join us for a great day outdoors in a park working side by side with fellow community members to make a real difference this Earth Day.

If you are still debating whether or not to volunteer, here’s what your Earth Day might be like if you sign up (hint: it will be awesome).

8:30am – 9am: You arrive at the park (following directions from the website) and park for free (!) because we appreciate our volunteers. You follow signs to the check in table head over to register, sign a waiver and say hello.

While other volunteers get registered, you enjoy some graciously-donated coffee from Peet’s Coffee and breakfast treats from Fruit Guys, Nature’s Path, and Lundenberg.

9am – The event organizers kick off the event! They welcome all the volunteers, give a safety talk, and explain the projects for the day. If there is more than one project, you pick the one that sounds good to you and join that group. Grab some gloves and tools and get ready to work!

9:30am – 12:30pm – You get work done! You help your team with the projects, get to know people, enjoy being outside, and have a great time.

12:30 pm – You did it! Look around and take in the improvements you made. Then gather together with the team to enjoy some lunch from SUBWAY Restaurants, and maybe get some fun prizes like Chipotle.

 

So what do you say? Will you join us next Saturday in a park near you?

See a map of the parks, read project descriptions, and register to volunteer online. Registration will close early next week, so sign up today!

 

Great State Parks to Visit If You Want to See a Gray Whale

Have you spotted a whale yet this year? It’s not too late!

There’s a good chance you can see a whale in April. The entire population of Gray Whales migrates along the California coastline twice a year. At this time of  year, Gray Whales are leaving Baja (where they traveled for the winter to mate and give birth), and are traveling north along the coast, making their return journey home to the Arctic.

A typical schedule: 

The migration trip for the Gray Whale is thought to be the longest of any mammal. They cover 10,000 to 14,000 miles round trip, at an average speed of 10 km/h. Really puts your commute to shame, doesn’t it?

The northern migration often is the easier time to see them, because the whales swim close to shore, with their babies between them and the shore, probably to protect them from sharks. Additionally, they are moving slower against the current with their young calves in tow.

According to About.com, your best bet for seeing a whale is to scan the ocean’s surface, looking for a spout (a spray of water). Grey whales normally swim in a cycle of 3 to 5 blows, 30 seconds apart, followed by a three- to six-minute dive, and they often show their tail flukes just before they dive. If they’re swimming just below the surface and you’re high enough to see the water’s surface, they may leave a “trail” of circular calm spots on the surface as they pass, making them easier to track.

Great Places to Watch for Whales

So where to go? There are a few great spots to watch for whales; the best being places where the coastline sticks out. Here are three of our favorite state parks with nice vantage points. Bring your binoculars!

Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park 

Pigeon Point has a great vantage point to watch for whales, with the lighthouse perched on a jut of land that reaches farther into the sea.

On Thursdays through Mondays in April, volunteers will be available at Pigeon Point from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help spot whales and to answer questions about their annual migration. While you are there, you can also learn about the other marine life that frequent the area, the history of the lighthouse and more. More Info >

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
There is a wonderful little trail that takes you out to a point that is great for whale watching. In addition you get the best view of McWay Falls from this trail. Whale watchers stand at coastal overlook points in December, January, March and April to watch gray whales migrate; a lucky few have seen gray whales come into the mouth of the cove. More Info > 

 

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

They gray whale is the most often spotted whale at the Point, but you can spot other types of whales throughout the year here, as well. More Info >

Even if you don’t spot a whale at these spots, you may still see dolphins, harbor seals, and sea otters, which are always fun. And at the very least, you’ll spend a lovely spring day in a state park.

Good luck, whale spotters.

California’s Wildflowers and Climate Change

wildflowers_exhibit postcard_frontExhibition: Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change – A 17 Year Journey Documenting Our State’s Vanishing Beauty

Photographs by  Rob Badger and Nita Winter

San Francisco Public Library, Jewett Gallery
January 23—March 27, 2016

 

In 1992, conservation photographer Rob Badger first experienced the rare and spectacular display of California wildflowers in the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, a California State Park in the Mojave Desert. Not wanting his partner and fellow photographer Nita Winter to miss what he was seeing, he quickly returned to San Francisco to get her, and drove back to the desert so he could enjoy and photograph this beauty together.

Years later, the 1997-98 El Niño rains produced an unexpected “100 Year Bloom” that inspired Rob and Nita to begin their 17-year documentary art project, “Beauty and the Beast: Wildflowers and Climate Change.”  The project is a visual story about the diverse and delicately-balanced ecosystems supporting spectacular explosions of color on our public lands. These protected habitats are being altered by climatic conditions alien to their region, and invaded and replaced by both non-local and non-native species.

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California Leopard Lilies (Lilium pardalinum), Mount Tamalpais State Park, Marin County, California (c)Rob Badger and Nita Winter

A part of this work is currently on display in San Francisco Main Library’s Jewett Gallery, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco, through March 27. The artists have selected 100 exquisite fine art photographs from their collection. The photos include wildflower landscapes from below sea level in Death Valley National Park to the high, alpine rock gardens above 11,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, as well as intimate wildflower portraits, some exclusive to the Bay Area, like the exotic Tiburon Mariposa Lily found only on Ring Mountain in Marin County.

But in addition to displaying the beauty of these places, this exhibit also gives visitors information about how climate change and increasing habitat loss are threatening Nature’s fragile native plant communities and species. “100 Year Blooms” are now happening much more frequently than once a century. This may be evidence that climate patterns are changing. New and alien weather patterns threaten future gorgeous displays of nature, as invasive species take advantage of abundant rains and crowd out native plants. Despite being “protected,” wildflower habitats are being altered by irreversible climatic conditions alien to their region. As wildflowers disappear, many animals, birds and insects that depend on them do as well. The educational aspect of the exhibit aims to inspire personal action to reduce the impacts of climate change, protect what remains of the natural world, and reduce habitat loss.

Exhibit hours are: Mondays 10-5:30, Tuesdays through Thursdays 9-7:30, Fridays 12-5:30, Saturdays 10-5:30 and Sundays 12-4:30. All programs at the library are free. Find more information here.

El Nino rains create abundant Desert Lily blossoms

Desert Chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana). Abundant El Nino rains create profuse wildflower bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California, USA during “100 Year Bloom” (c)Rob Badger and Nita Winter

 

State Park Events this Weekend to Escape the Super Bowl

It’s Super Bowl weekend. Are you just not that into football? Or would you like to get some exercise before you settle in for the big game? Either way, try out a state park this weekend! We’ve got five great ideas to get you started:

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STARGAZE IN A PARK

Fri. 2/5, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – East of San Diego

Join the Anza-Borrego Foundation on the roof deck of the visitor center to check out the night sky. Bring warm clothing, a chair or blanket to sit on, and binoculars if you have them. Photo by Thomas Haraikawa

 

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SEE A WHALE

Sat. and Sun. 2/6 and 2/7, 11:00 a.m.
MacKerricher State Park – North of Mendocino

Meet at the visitor center to learn from docents about the annual gray whale migration, then walk along the Laguna Point boardwalk to look for whales. Binoculars provided. Wear layers! Leashed pets OK. Photo by Gary Philbin

 

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COOK IN A STATE PARK

Sat. 2/6, 1:00 p.m.
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park – Downtown Santa Cruz

Explore different cooking styles of the people who lived and worked at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park for over 200 years, including hot rock cooking, tortilla frying on a Comal and baking in a Horno. Taste samples and make your own tortillas! Photo by Richard Zimmerman

 

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VOLUNTEER, CAMP AND KAYAK

Sat. and Sun. 2/6 and 2/7, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Salton Sea State Recreation Area – Southwest of Palm Desert

Sign up for a two-day project to help with ramada construction and grounds cleanup, and camp at the park for free Friday and Saturday nights. Plus, free kayaking on Saturday afternoon! Potable water, restrooms and showers available; no electricity. Photo by Thomas Haraikawa

 

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TRAVEL BACK IN TIME

Sat. and Sun. 2/6 and 2/7, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Tour of Ranch House 1:00 p.m.
Wilder Ranch State Park – West of Santa Cruz

Visit a dairy ranch from the 1800s and learn about California’s ranching history! The one-hour tour includes early California ranching buildings and restored workshops run by water power, as well as volunteers in period clothing. Photo by Diane Main

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breathing New Life into a Park’s Artist Past

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Do you have an upcoming flight through the San Francisco International Airport? Now through October 16, 2016 you can experience a piece of California state park history while passing through Terminal 2.

A new exhibition, A Potter’s Life: Marguerite Wildenhain at Pond Farm, gives travelers a chance to view work created by Marguerite Wildenhain, Bauhaus-trained internationally noted artist. Wildenhain taught, worked, and lived at Pond Farm, a studio and artist residence located in Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Sonoma County from 1942 until her death in 1985. The exhibit at SFO – part of the collection of her life-long friend Forrest L. Merrill – offers a stunning glimpse into Wildenhain’s craft.

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The studio at Pond Farm

Pond Farm was established as an artist school and refuge in the steep hills of Austin Creek Redwoods in 1942 by architect Gordon Herr. Wildenhain was the first of several artists to move there in 1942. After a few years, she was the only artist remaining at Pond Farm. She stayed for 30 years, working in her studio and teaching small groups of students to master the art of the wheel.

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Attendees of the Pond Farm reception view pieces made by Wildenhain

On Sunday, January 24, 2016, a special reception and VIP viewing was held at the San Francisco International Airport’s Aviation Museum and Library. For those in attendance, it was a memorable opportunity to hear Pond Farm named as a National Treasure by Barbara Pahl, Senior Vice President for Field Services, National Trust for Historic Preservation. Hosts for the event,  California State Parks Foundation, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, and California State Parks are currently working together to help revitalize the architectural and cultural heritage of Pond Farm. Pond Farm is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is also designated a National Treasure.

CSPF is proud to be a contributor to this unique project.

To view the exhibition online, visit: http://www.flysfo.com/museum/exhibitions/pond-farm