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 land art and interpretive signage at the Bowtie, working with LA-based 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 the 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.

A Dream for the Bowtie Parcel

Intro: What is the Bowtie?

There is a shared dream in Los Angeles to turn a piece of neglected land — The Bowtie Parcel — into a vibrant space used and loved by the local community. The Bowtie Parcel, located  within Rio de Los Angeles State Park, has been part of the state parks system since 2003, but has not available to the public for over a decade. However, the dream for this space has started to take shape with the help of a collaborative group working together to bring new life to this overlooked piece of land.

The Bowtie Project is a collaboration between Clockshop, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, local artists and the community for the revitalization of the Bowtie Parcel. It is bringing together local artists, organizing community events and revitalizing this area of the park. California State Parks Foundation began supporting this emerging partnership with a Park Enrichment Grant in June 2014.

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The Bowtie Parcel’s Roundhouse Shines by Olga Koumoundouros. Photo by Gina Clyne.

Bowtie Project Update

GUEST BLOG BY STEPHANIE CAMPBELL, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION STAFF PARK AND RECREATION SPECIALIST, ON THE NEWLY-FORMED PARTNERSHIP AND HOW THE BOWTIE IS BEING TRANSFORMED AND REVITALIZED

 

Since early 2014, Bowtie Parcel “Outdoor Arts, Nature, and Learning Laboratory at Rio de Los Angeles State Park” has been an active and evolving partnership with Elysian Valley non-­profit Clockshop. So much so, that we’ve settled on calling the collaboration simply “The Bowtie Project,” which better captures the amorphous blend of art, environment, and critical inquiry occurring at the site. Inspired to apply for a California State Parks Foundation grant by the early success of Michael Parker’s “monument making” sculpture workshop atop The Unfinished, we have since partnered with artists Olga Koumoundouros and Rosten Woo on site specific installations and youth workshops. We’ve also hosted a second, wildly popular LA River Campout, shared an art and nature walk with local girl scouts, and  made connections for future projects with art teachers at the nearby Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academy and the non-profit Artworxla (formerly the HeArt Project) aimed at reducing high school dropout rates through arts education.

Olga Koumoundouros engaged local youth from the beginning of her project “Roundhouse Shines” by reaching out to those already using the roundhouse for artistic expression and an informal gathering spot. She encouraged their participation in the creation of her installation as well as in a provocative closing performance questioning the concept of land ownership as it relates to disenfranchised populations who have long used and occupied this fringe space along the Los Angeles River.

Reading the interpretive sign. Photo by Rosten Woo.

The LA River Interpretive Signage Program by Rosten Woo. Photo by Gina Clyne.

Similarly, Rosten Woo’s “Interpretive Signage Program” though seeming to fit the traditional model of State Parks historical and natural interpretive signage, addresses the question on gentrification head on by tracing the connection between public investment and private development, and the resultant effect on longtime neighborhood residents. Rosten presented the first phase of his signage program at the second LA River Campout and it was enthusiastically received by youth groups attending the event. They were particularly interested in his contrast of traditional camping, with the issue of homelessness, and criminalization of “outdoor sleeping” in urban areas.

An upclose view. Photo by Rosten Woo.

The LA River Interpretive Signage Program by Rosten Woo. Photo by Gina Clyne.

Mackenzie Hoffman of Clockshop and Ranger Keleigh Apperson from CSP led the Larchmont Village Girl Scouts Troop 459 on a nature walk, while also taking time to explore and discuss The Unfinished and Roundhouse Shines. The scouts were enthused and engaged with both projects and delighted in the rough‐hewn charm of the undeveloped site. Though, since receiving the California State Parks Foundation Discretionary Grant, we’ve outfitted our mobile classroom with custom made benches and worktables to facilitate more structured, yet still flexible classroom activities.

2015 is shaping up to be another eventful year with the third LA River Campout on the horizon this May and a new group of artists embarking on projects at the site. Currently, Rafael Esparza is presenting Con Safos, a collaboration with Self‐Help Graphics and a rotating roster of local artists. Muralists will transform his adobe wall over the course of several months and Esparza, along with a participating artist who is also a teacher, are currently planning workshops and youth outreach associated with the project. Artists Taisha Paggett and Carolina Caycedo are developing dance and storytelling projects, respectively, and are expected to share their process and disciplines with youth as they contemplate the past, present and future of the site and its connection to the Los Angeles River.

Looking forward. Photo by Gina Clyne.

Looking forward. Photo by Gina Clyne.

Time capsule opened in historic state park

It is not every day that you have the opportunity to open a time capsule. But on November 29, the Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park and the community of Chico got that chance.

An eager crowd of all ages gathered at the front of the mansion around 10 a.m. to see what people from the past wanted to pass on. The time capsule was discovered on November 4 this year when a construction crew was moving an Oregon Trail marker, which was placed there October 25, 1925.

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After a few minutes of waiting the contents were revealed. The box contained scrolls that were wrapped in some sort of vegetation. The staff did not want to open the scrolls right away, as not to expose the paper to the elements. The time capsule is now on display in the Visitor Center and is awaiting an expert to safely inspect what is inside. The information will become available once it has been analyzed.

What may be even more important than the contents of the capsule is the community that came out to see it. The mansion continues to be a social and cultural hub for the community. For example, throughout the year the local elementary schools in the Chico Unified School District come to the Bidwell Mansion to learn about local and California history.

The three-story, 26-room mansion was the home of pioneer General John Bidwell and his wife Annie Bidwell, a temperance leader and women’s suffrage advocate. The mansion was a social and cultural destination for many, including President Rutherford B. Hayes, General William Tecumseh Sherman, California Governor Leland Stanford, environmentalist John Muir, and women’s suffragist Susan B. Anthony.

California can only hope Bidwell Mansion is preserved for our future generations to gather, learn about, and embrace the historical community.

The Visitor Center is open Saturday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are held Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

story BY CSPF Senor membership assistant Ashley tittle

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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.

CONTRIBUTED BY SITE READER SUSIE COMPTON

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!

Above the clouds…and fog: East Peak of Mt. Tamalpais (Photos)

A guest post BY VICTOR VOLTA

Victor is a professional photographer and writer, living in Alameda, CA. He has a degree in Journalism from San José State University. He is an avid hiker, loves road trips to the Sierras and the desert.

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East Peak, Mt. Tamalpais

There are various ways to get to the East Peak of Mt. Tamalpais (directions from Mill Valley). At 2,571’, it’s the highest point in the park . The easiest way is to cheat and drive up East Ridgecrest Boulevard, park in the lot and wander around the summit, taking in the panoramic views.

But as with most things worth savoring, a little hard work is more beneficial to the soul, not to mention the heart, lungs and legs. The southern approach from Fern Creek Trail is one of the most challenging stretches of climbing in the entire park. The best starting point for this option is to park at the lot across from Mountain Home Inn on the Panoramic Highway. On mid-week mornings, parking is ample, but it can fill up on weekends, especially during the late spring and summer. There are two chemical toilets and a stunning view of Muir Woods below and to the west.

One caveat: From the parking lot, the starting point isn’t apparent or obvious. First the hiker must cross the street (look both ways for cars being driven by awestruck tourists, speeding cyclists, or deer) then walk up the driveway of the Throckmorton Fire House. You might feel like a trespasser, but continue to the left of the station and you’ll see a wide fire road (Hogback Fire Road).

The terrain starts off with a moderate incline, but once past the water tower and the Matt Davis trailhead, the real workout begins and it’s a steep climb of several hundred yards to the intersection of Old Railroad Grade Fire Trail. Unless the hiker is out to really punish their legs, an occasional stop to catch one’s breath and to take in the view to the south is recommended. While a magnificent scene of the forest peeking through a fog bank like the above photo isn’t guaranteed, the view is always something to be marveled at. Depending on visibility and the fog bank, stretching to the horizon are views of Sausalito, San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge, and countless other landmarks.

The T-intersection of Old Railroad Grade (1400’) is a good place to stop and rest, drink some water and perhaps shed a layer of clothing. This fire road is a popular thoroughfare for mountain bikers on their way from Mill Valley to either West Point Inn or the East Peak. Continuing to the left, it’s an easy amble of less than half a mile on the wide fire road to the Fern Creek trailhead.

Nestled against the mountainside in the crease formed by Fern Creek, the trail to the summit is single track (no bikes allowed) that takes the hiker up varied terrain up the southern slope towards the summit. This trail section is roughly a mile in length, gaining about 1,000′ in elevation, making it one of the steepest one-mile stretches in the park.

It’s starts steeply up switchbacks and steps in the shade of bay laurel, oak and a smattering of evergreens. This time of year (early April) finds blooms of wild iris. A quarter mile up, the trail flattens, crosses Fern Creek, and then reaches the intersection of the short Tavern Pump trail. From here it’s a hard, steady climb. Once past a long wooden staircase, the underbrush becomes mainly chamise and manzanita and the path turns rockier and more uneven. On the way down, this rocky terrain will test the treads on one’s hiking shoes and help determine if a trip to REI to buy new ones is needed.

There’s a final steep chute through a tunnel of manzanita branches that takes the hiker to the end of the trail. One more caveat: This isn’t the summit. The summit is a short climb away from the Visitor Center, which is to the right about two hundred yards up an access road. In addition to the visitor center (open only on weekends) there are bathrooms, picnic tables and the views become expansive once again.

For those who want to experience the true summit of the East Peak, it’s another quarter mile and 200’ climb up a wooden walkway that eventually gives way to a rockier trail. At the end of this short section is a lookout tower that’s inaccessible to the public, but from just below it, finally gives the hiker a panoramic view in all directions. Lunch can be enjoyed here above the clouds and fog (hopefully), back down near the Visitor Center, or some other spot of the hiker’s choosing.

For the return trip, the hiker can either backtrack to Mountain Home Inn or, using a trail map, pick a new route back down the mountain.

This article originally appeared on Examiner.com.

Memories from Montaña de Oro State Park

A guest post BY JOSH MCNAIR

Josh is a blogger and photographer that is currently attempting to travel and photograph the state of California with his blog CaliforniaThroughMyLens.com. He also loves to go on adventures and hikes and chronicles them on the adventure blog OPAdventureTeam.com.

I love visiting California’s beautiful state parks as they are diverse collections of the extraordinary beauty that is found all over this state. I even have a list of all the parks in my office with the hope that I may one day check them all off. While I have traveled extensively in California, one of the parks I had heard the least about has became one of my favorites, Montaña de Oro. Montaña de Oro, located south of Morro Bay and West of San Luis Obispo, is a beautiful example of what pristine, untouched coastline can look like (we never see this in Southern California). It has miles of trails, acres of beaches to relax on and a leisurely style that beckons you come and enjoy yourself. My favorite place to visit here is the Bluffs Trail as it walks the coastline for about two miles and creates fantastic vistas one after another as you are walking. Here are my favorite parts of this trail in Montaña de Oro State Park.

bluffs trail 1This first picture demonstrates the amazing way the water has worked on the rocks to create these unique inlets. As the tide goes up and the years move on, the water does its part to create art that can now be seen in these rock structures. I also love the way the green juxtaposes with the blues of the ocean and the browns of the rock. bluffs trail 2

A little further down the trail there are a series of steps that lead to a small beach and a large collection of tide pools. Again, in Southern California, these tide pools would have been crawling with people, but up in this park they were practically vacant, which allowed us to see everything from starfish to sea slugs. It was awesome to be able to see a habitat like this so untouched.

bluffs trail 3If you are feeling more adventurous there are a bunch of inlets where you can climb down and relax on the beach. Beaches like the above picture even provide opportunities to swim out and check out the small arches and little caves located right off the shoreline in the rock formations. Even during the end of summer when I was there, there were only about a dozen people relaxing on the beach.

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My last memory about Montaña de Oro was coming to the end of the bluffs trail. This rock that jutted out of the bluffs created a unique picture against the ocean crashing behind it. While the picture makes it look small, this rock was big enough to hold me for a picture that I still have hanging up in my house. It is a great place to just relax and realize how small you are in the grand scheme of things.

I loved my time at this park and always tell others to visit. It is a beautifully preserved example of California’s rich beaches and a great place to take a family vacation. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments if you have been here and enjoyed yourself as much as I did. You can read my full post with directions to the trail on my site CaliforniaThroughMyLens.com.

Park Advocacy Day: A View From the Trenches

A guest post BY MICHAEL HANRAHAN

Michael is a long-time park advocate and is a regular at CSPF’s Annual Park Advocacy.

This year marks my fourth time attending Park Advocacy Day, an annual event sponsored by the California State Parks Foundation. The all-day event brings concerned citizens and state park supporters from all over California to Sacramento. We spend much of the day walking the halls of the State Capitol building, meeting with legislators, and lobbying them to take a stand on legislation related to our state parks. It’s a great experience to become a lobbyist for a day, and to take part in grassroots political action on a very meaningful level.

My 2012 Park Advocacy Day Team: George Loyer, Kirsten Schulz, Avery Dinauer, M.J. Wickham, and myself.

My 2012 Park Advocacy Day Team: George Loyer, Kirsten Schulz, Avery Dinauer, M.J. Wickham, and myself.

The day starts out with an informal breakfast, during which time the teams of four to five people get to meet each other and look over the day’s assignments. Teams are organized by region of the state, and generally meet with legislators from their particular part of the state. There are some exceptions to this though, so flexibility is critical to getting the most out of Park Advocacy Day. My Bay Area team has usually met with Democratic legislators who are strong supporters of state parks, such as former Assemblyman Jared Huffman, Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, and Senators Mark Leno and Noreen Evans. Last year, we had the chance to meet with an aide to Assemblyman Donald Wagner, an Orange County Republican, who also expressed strong support for our state parks. This provided us with a great opportunity to see how issues related to state parks enjoy the support of people across the political spectrum.

I had the chance to meet with Senator Mark Leno at Park Advocacy Day in 2011.

I had the chance to meet with Senator Mark Leno at Park Advocacy Day in 2011.

A lot has changed since 2010, the first year I attended Park Advocacy Day. One of the big issues at the time was then-Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to link funding for state parks to approval of offshore oil drilling leases along the Santa Barbara Channel. The “oil for parks” proposal, which coincided with some of the early threats to close state parks, was ultimately shot down, mainly due to its absurdity.

By 2011, the budget cuts to state parks had reached crisis level, and much of the discussion at Park Advocacy Day was related to the impending and much dreaded park closure list, which was finally released about two months later. One of the most important pieces of legislation that year was AB 42, authored by Jared Huffman, which paved the way for nonprofit organizations to enter into Operating Agreements and Donor Agreements with DPR. We lobbied hard for this bill and were very gratified to see it passed unanimously by the Assembly, by a huge majority in the Senate, and signed by Governor Brown later that year.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman speaks to 2010 Park Advocacy Day attendees on the steps of the Capitol.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman speaks to 2010 Park Advocacy Day attendees on the steps of the Capitol.

In 2012, the fight to keep open the 70 parks on the closure list was in full swing. Park Advocacy Day was attended by many representatives of organizations associated with parks on the closure list. The sense of urgency was palpable, along with a determination to fight hard to prevent any park closures from taking place. One of my assigned meetings was with Assemblyman Jared Huffman, whose AB 42 was already being put into practice by a number of organizations. The large group meeting, which included three other teams, was more like a pep rally than a lobbying meeting.

One of the best parts of Park Advocacy Day is walking around the State Capitol building. With its neoclassical architecture featuring a central rotunda topped by an expansive dome, the building takes its inspiration from the ancient Greeks, as well as the design of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. It is a style that has come to represent the home of democracy, a place where the people have a voice in their government. The State Capitol in Sacramento has an especially strong significance to park advocates, because the building itself is one of California’s 280 state parks. Its portrait-lined hallways and intricately carved staircases serve the purpose of wilderness trails and pathways that lead us to our assigned destinations.

The State Capitol building is one of California's 280 state parks.

The State Capitol building is one of California’s 280 state parks.

For people who love and cherish our state parks, Park Advocacy Day is an important day to make our voices heard, at a time when parks throughout the state are facing threats from budget cuts, nearby development, vandalism, and neglect.  Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned landscape architect who authored the Preliminary Report that created the California state parks system in 1864, wrote about the importance of protecting the great scenic wonders of our state:

“It is the will of the nation as embodied in the act of Congress that this scenery shall never be private property, but that like certain defensive points upon our coast it shall be solely for public purposes.”

This year, Park Advocacy Day offers park supporters a chance to savor the victories of the past year with a sense of cautious optimism. State parks still face formidable obstacles, including a backlog of deferred maintenance that exceeds $1 billion. But the morning light after a long dark night seems to be emerging now, like the winter sun rising above the distant horizon. It’s a view that can be cherished from many of our state parks.

Wildlife and Birds on an RV Trip to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

A guest post BY Joe Laing, El MONTE RV

Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV Rentals, your nationwide source for RV rentals. El Monte RV also sells used motorhomes through eight different locations across the United States. For more information on purchasing a used motorhome see elmontervsales.com/.

My friend was planning to travel to Southern California for an RV vacation and called me. He knew I had provided itineraries to many travelers throughout the years, so he wanted to take advantage of my vast knowledge and find the best California state park to visit. I was happy to oblige. Knowing he loved wildlife, birding and ATV riding, I picked the best place where he could find plenty of all three – Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Anza-Borrego

Anza-Borrego

This is California’s largest state park, with 600,000 acres and hundreds of miles of dirt roads and beautiful wilderness areas. The wonders of the desert are all around, with the opportunity to see magnificent wildflower displays and amazing vistas. I could think of no other park where he would find such ideal weather for a winter RV trip, nor could I think of another place where the wildlife and birding opportunities were so unique.

The park itself extends through eastern San Diego County while reaching into both Riverside and Imperial Counties, and includes two towns, Borrego Springs and Shelter Valley. In Borrego Springs, my friend can find RV camping at the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. His RV motorhome is 35 feet long, the maximum length allowed at this campground, so it will be perfect! He will be happy with the full hookups and close proximity to dump station, hiking and nature trails and many birds. The campground is a mile north of the park headquarters and easy to find.

I told him that he should get ready for the views as he approaches. The great bowl of the desert spreads out before him, mountains to every side. To the south are the Vallecito Mountains with the Santa Rosa Mountains to the north. He won’t be able to get into those wilderness areas as there are no roads, but he won’t need to with all there is to see right in the Anza-Borrego desert.

Fonts Point

Fonts Point

Wildlife is Plentiful in the Park

My buddy wants wildlife – wildlife he’ll get. In this diverse landscape he will have the opportunity to see mule deer, kit foxes, iguanas and perhaps a red diamond rattlesnake. Of course, other wildlife sightings will include coyotes, jackrabbits, ground squirrels and kangaroo rats. The one animal he probably won’t get a glimpse of is the elusive desert bighorn. This peninsular bighorn sheep keeps his distance and only a few people are patient enough to observe and count this endangered species to see how they are faring.

The Birds of Anza-Borrego

Besides greater roadrunners, quail, prairie falcons and golden eagles, there is the famous Swainson’s hawks. These birds migrate every spring to their North American breeding grounds and in the fall to their South American wintering grounds. I had to tell my friend that he must make a point of joining those who take part in the Borrego Valley Hawkwatch so he can see these magnificent birds. It is very lucky for him that he is arriving in mid-February, as the watches go on from 15 February to 15 April. If he is an early riser, he can watch them take off between 8 and 9 am or he can arrive at the Evening Hawkwatch Site on Borrego Valley Road an hour before sunset.

The Flora of Anza-Borrego Desert

We can’t neglect the flora! In late February or early March the wildflowers create such displays as to take your breath away. I told my friend he should stay a few weeks so he will be sure not to miss this elegant and colorful panorama of blooms. The brittlebush lends its yellow and the chuparosa adds its red to the rainbows of hues. The timing is hard to predict, based on rainfall and temperatures, but if he is patient he will find the washes of color hard to resist and certainly he will have thousands of photos to add to his collection.

In these landscapes with so many forms, plant life abounds. He will view sage, cactus shrub, Palo Verde trees and Smoke trees. In the east and to the north he will find pine forests, oaks and Manzanitas. It is such a wide variety with the mountains as background, it is sure to inspire.

Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area

To add to the excitement, the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area is right next door to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The off-road fun awaiting my friend is virtually endless here. My friend was enthusiastic upon hearing of the additional opportunities to get out on his ATV. He plans first to do the self-guided tour.

Yes, my friend is most certainly excited about coming to Anza-Borrego. Now to convince him to make room for me in his RV!

My Funky Hiking Boots Lead The Way

A guest post BY SHAWN BOLKER

Shawn Bolker is a member of California State Parks Foundation. He completed the Defend What’s Yours Challenge in 2012 to show his support for California state parks.

Henry Cowell © Shawn Bolker

Henry Cowell © Shawn Bolker

Ever since I was two years old, my family and I have had the tradition of spending time outdoors and of also volunteering to protect our natural surroundings.  The outdoors must be preserved for future generations.  It is important to have a natural place to ground people when they are  moving all around, to stay in touch with the earth and just to mellow down.

I really like to hike, backpack, and photograph waterfalls.  Now that I am a teenager, my dirty old hiking boots and I often head out to explore nature.  My hiking boots lead the way and my camera is in my hand to capture and reflect what is around me.

I also enjoy researching an area before I take off to explore.  My comfortable, warm and funky hiking boots remind me of where I have been and all that I would like to discover.