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

Community of Experts to Weigh in on Candlestick Development

GUEST BLOG BY CSPF INTERN ALYSSA HEMLER. Alyssa is a junior at Oberlin College in Ohio majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration on urban sustainability and sustainable communities.

 

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The shoreline at Candlestick. Photo by 4johnny5 via Flickr.

In 2011, California State Parks Foundation (CSPF) began construction to restore wetlands and create a park on the northern Yosemite Slough waterfront area of Candlestick Point State Recreation Area. A lot has been accomplished in the years since, but there is still so much to be done.  In the short time that I’ve been interning with CSPF, I have learned a lot about the extensive planning process for this park. Not only does CSPF need to raise all of the money for this project (over $25 million), but there are three phases of the actual restoration/ park building. The first phase, restoring the north side wetlands, was completed in June of 2012. Currently, they are in phase two – public access and visitor use. This includes all of the capital improvements for the park (benches, an interpretive center, a picnic area, etc.) as well as all educational programming.

There is a lot of planning for phase 2. CSPF has gathered an advisory committee made up of experts who specialize in various aspects of parks and recreation: natural history, environmental and citizen science, cultural history, youth and community outreach and engagement, health and recreation, art, and policing and security. This committee will meet a total of six times in the next 12 to 14 months to help develop the first interpretive master plan for the park. An interpretive master plan aims to improve the visitor experience through development of interpretive facilities, educational and multimedia programs, interpretive signage, and enhanced recreational opportunities.  This includes planning activities to have in place for Yosemite Slough at the anticipated opening at the end of 2017. Throughout the whole planning process, the advisory committee will help foster strong community involvement in this historically underserved community.

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A working board from the first advisory committee meeting on January 26, 2016.

Because the advisory committee is composed of experts from a variety of educational, professional, and personal backgrounds, incorporating all of the different ideas and viewpoints will be a lot of work, but is essential for an effective and rewarding planning process. So although it may seem like park building is moving slowly, there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes to make this park a reality.

Governor Brown Releases 2016-17 Budget Proposal

It’s a New Year, which means it is time to starting thinking about new budgets.

In a news conference earlier today, Governor Jerry Brown proposed a $170 billion California State Budget for Fiscal Year 2016-17. The budget includes $589 million ($117.5 million General Fund) for the Department of Parks and Recreation, an amount similar to what was allocated last year.

We are pleased to see that the budget proposal continues an investment into aging state park infrastructure and the ever-growing deferred maintenance backlog in our parks currently estimated at over $1 billion. Specifically, Governor Brown has proposed authorizing $60 million to go towards deferred maintenance projects in state parks.

This is a good continuation of the slow but steady reinvestment in our state parks by addressing deferred maintenance needs. We at CSPF know it is vital to improving the user experience at our state parks by making them safe and accessible, which is something we have been advocating for over the past 10 years.

We look forward to working with policymakers as the budget process progresses over the coming months. We will be discussing budget issues as part of Park Advocacy Day, which you can read more about below.

As always, we will continue to monitor and keep you informed of the development of this year’s budget.