150th Anniversary of California State Parks

2014 marks 150 years since the California state parks system has existed as an entity. To celebrate, the organization has planned a number of events relating to its history and its presence in preserving the natural environment of California. Oroville Mercury-Register reports that one of the key events celebrating the anniversary will be taking place at Lake Oroville to launch its Summer Speakers series. California State Parks has grown to be one of the largest state park systems in the world, with 280 park units, more than 1,600,000 acres, 14,000 campsites, and visitor attendance of some 70 million visitors per year. Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Major General Anthony L. Jackson, USMC (Ret.) said, “California State Parks has been a leader in the conservation and preservation of our natural and cultural resources, and our mission is to connect the people of California with their parks.”

Humble beginnings

To coincide with the celebrations, DPR has released a fact sheet with a brief history of California’s state parks. The first step towards dedicated conservation areas in the state was taken by President Abraham Lincoln. In June 1864, he signed a bill declaring that Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees be granted to the state of California ‘upon the express condition that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation, and shall be inalienable for all time.’ In 1890, the Marshall Monument was identified as the first historical state park, and by 1928, the Division of Parks had been established to manage the 17 parks and 15 employees that were now open. State parks are responsible for almost one-third of California’s scenic coastline, managing the finest coastal wetlands, estuaries, beaches, and dune systems. Their workplace consists of nearly 1.4 million acres, with over 280 miles of coastline; 625 miles of lake and river frontage.

California Coastline from Pescadero State Beach ©Lance Kuehne

Continuing celebrations

The celebration preparations began back in December 2013 with the grand opening of the California Statewide Museum Collections Center. The Center “serves as the repository for over 1 million historic objects and artifacts from parks throughout the state.” It takes in 130 years taking in “including historic freight wagons and carriages, Native Californian Indian baskets, textiles, natural history specimens, western memorabilia, architectural features, and works of art.” Other events that have taken place have included the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association’s (AMIA) celebration, coinciding with its own 30th anniversary. AMIA works with Anderson Marsh State Park to promote educational and interpretive activities. Their event included a guided nature walk, “music, refreshments, historical displays and exhibits and guest speakers.” California State Parks offered free admission to veterans, as well as active and reserve military personnel in participating California state parks on Memorial Day.”

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park © Michael Hanrahan

As important national sites, California’s state parks bring in visitors from all over the world. For anybody abroad looking to visit Lake Oroville, Anderson Marsh, or any of California’s other 280 parks, it’s vital that they have the right currency with them in time for their travel. Cards aren’t always accepted at smaller businesses so it’s important to carry an adequate supply of cash to avoid having to miss out on activities or purchases. The Lonely Planet’s web advice regarding California, outlines the costs associated with the state, as well as advising on different options for spending and exchanging money. Visa offers a TravelMoney Card, which is a prepaid card, allowing customers to pay for goods as they would a regular Visa credit card, as well as withdraw money from ATMs in the local currency.

With celebrations commemorating 150 years of state parks set to continue throughout 2014, and an events calendar outlining these available online, it seems like a great year to do some exploring of the Golden State’s natural attractions. The state parks’ anniversary fact sheet notes that their parks contain the largest and most diverse natural and cultural heritage holdings of any state agency in the nation, including “underwater preserves, reserves, and parks; redwood, rhododendron, and wildlife reserves; state beaches, recreation areas, wilderness areas, and reservoirs; state historic parks, historic homes, Spanish era adobe buildings, including museums, visitor centers, cultural reserves, and preserves.” With almost 15,000 campsites and 3,000 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, California’s state parks really do have something to offer everyone.