By Adrian and Tony Mangina, Core Leaders at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
The year before we moved to San Diego, our membership to California State Parks Foundation led us to an Earth Day event at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. There was something exceptionally gratifying about removing graffiti from the sandstone bluffs and seeing the change we could make. So, when we moved down to San Diego and were looking for an opportunity give back to our new community, we turned again to California State Parks Foundation.
The Park Champions volunteer program had just added Cuyamaca Rancho State Park to its roster, and we signed up for the first volunteer day there: June 4, 2016. We spent a long, hot day building ten segments of a stake-and-rider fence along the road to the visitor center. We were told this fencing was essential to protecting a sensitive meadow environment from four-wheel drive thrill seekers. It was really hard work digging three-foot-deep holes into baked clay, but after that one day we were hooked. So hooked, in fact, that when Philip Oakley Otto told us that California State Parks Foundation had scheduled a training day for Core Leaders the very next month, we signed up without a second thought.
What started out as a day of digging holes turned into a life-changing experience. Over the past three years, we have volunteered in a number of Southern California parks for Park Champions and have met so many amazing, like-minded folks from near and far who also choose to give a little of their time to improving California parks. What began as a small gesture to help our community has enriched our lives immeasurably through the great friends we have met and the memories we have to share.
This June, we’re celebrating the hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers from across California who tirelessly donate their time and work to improve the quality, safety and preservation of our state parks with Champion Your Parks Month! Click here to learn how you can join the celebration and thank our amazing volunteers.