Pigeon Point Lighthouse Celebrated!

Every November people from near and far gather at Pigeon Point Light Station State Park to mark the anniversary of the first time—in 1872—its Fresnel Lens was lit to guide mariners. A technological marvel, even by today’s standards, the first order Fresnel Lens stands 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, and weighs 2,000 pounds. Though the lens is now on display in the adjacent Fog Signal Building, the lighthouse remains an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation.

After 143 years of weathering wind, salt water and other harsh elements, the lighthouse is closed for a major rehabilitation project led by CSPF. Phase One, an interim stabilization of the tower by removing the lens and sealing all cracks to prevent water intrusion, has been completed. Drawings for the remaining three phases (upper tower, lower tower, oil house) are pending approval and a series of events to kick off the restoration campaign are in the works.

The lens will not return to the upper tower until repairs are completed, but that didn’t stop the festivities enjoyed by over 1,000 attendees on Saturday. During the day, families took docent-led nature and history walks, children made their own lighthouses while sipping hot chocolate, musicians serenaded the crowds with songs about lighthouses, Beyond the Border food truck served up delicious meals, and everyone stopped by the Fog Signal Building for viewings of the magnificent lens and its prisms of light.

Shortly after sunset, an audience gathered for a slide show of the construction drawings by Architectural Resources Group (ARG) which were projected onto the lighthouse itself. Then a short video entitled “It’s A Long Way to Pigeon Point” (by docents Stuart Nafey and Peter Bohacek) described historic transportation modes used to reach the lighthouse, as well as marine mammals and birds that migrate past the area.

After the two showings, other images were projected onto the spectacular lighthouse screen—including a lava lamp which only audience members of a certain generation could identify. Using the lighthouse as the backdrop for these two viewings was quite a spectacle. The volunteers at Pigeon Point plan to do it again next year, so save the date of November 12, 2016.

Photos by James Zhang

5 Southern California Hikes in State Parks

Southern California state parks are usually associated with breathtaking beaches, but there are many amazing hikes and activities for everyone to enjoy. Here is a list of 5 hikes in Southern California state parks to get started on your exporation. So get out there and hike!

Torrey Pines State Reserve. Photo by Erica Shalit.

Torrey Pines State Reserve. Photo by Erica Shalit.

1. Broken Hill Trail Loop, Torrey Pines State Reserve

If you are wanting spectacular views of Southern California this trail is for you. Torrey Pines State Reserve is home to the rarest pine tree on the North American continent, the Torrey Pine. Gaze upon Southern California as it looked hundreds of years ago from atop Broken Hill. This 2.5 mile loop consists of two trails, the North and South Broken Hill trails. The best part of this hike is the viewpoint at the middle of the hike. It is an amazing view during sunset hours. This is a fairly easy trail and great for all levels of hikers.

Palomar Mountain State Park. Photo by Julianne Bradford.

Palomar Mountain State Park. Photo by Julianne Bradford.

2. Doane Valley Nature Trail, Palomar Mountain State Park

A variety of hiking trails is available within the park. Some lend themselves to short, leisurely walks and others are suitable for vigorous, all-day hikes. The scenery includes open meadows and thick coniferous or oak forests. Trails are open to foot traffic only. The Doane Valley Nature Trail is very nice in the summer months and is only about a mile long. Along shady Doane Creek, you’ll see creek dogwood, wild strawberry, mountain currant, and Sierra gooseberry. At the park office you can get a leaflet describing different types of trees you will see on the trail.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Photo by Mimi Kramer .

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Photo by Mimi Kramer.

3. Borrego Palm Canyon Trail, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

First-timers can’t miss the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail, a 3-mile round-trip flowering with brittlebush, desert lavender, and ocotillo. The trail starts close to the Borrego Palms Campground. The trailhead itself is very clearly marked, and the parking area has plenty of spaces. Make sure you bring plenty of water, because this trail tends to get very hot. The best times for this trail are fall, spring, and winter to beat the heat. The trail leads to the third-largest palm oasis in California, which was the first site sought for a desert state park back in the 1920s. It’s a beautiful, well-watered oasis, tucked away in a rocky V-shaped gorge. If you’re lucky, you may glimpse a bighorn sheep, in a canyon vegetated by California’s only native species of palm. A longer option takes you exploring farther up-canyon.

Red Rock Canyon State Park. Photo by Carol P. Murdock.

Red Rock Canyon State Park. Photo by Carol P. Murdock.

4. Nightmare Gulch Loop, Red Rock Canyon State Park

Nightmare Gulch Loop is a long hike, about 8.8 miles. Rock Canyon State Park attracts many raptors and in order to protect the raptor nesting sites, the gulch is closed to hikers and vehicle travel yearly from February 1 to July 1. When the area is open it is a great trail to take photos on. The trailhead starts a half mile north of the entrance to Red Rock State Park at a small turn out on the east side of the highway. The route goes along ridge tops with panoramic views of the gulch and the Southern Sierra Nevada. This is a relatively easy hike with a small amount of elevation gain and loss. This hike can be very hot during the summer months, so take caution and be prepared.

Mount San Jacinto State Park. Photo by David Herholz.

Mount San Jacinto State Park. Photo by David Herholz.

5. San Jacinto Peak, Mount San Jacinto State Park

For a bit more of a challenge, set your eyes on Mount San Jacinto. At 10,834 ft, it is the highest peak in the California State Park System, and the 2nd highest in Southern California. This is a very difficult hike, but worth it once you reach the top. When you arrive at the parking lot of Valley Station, you’ll have to buy a ticket to ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to Mountain Station. From there you will begin the 11 mile hike to the peak. While the trails here are very well signed, be sure to pay attention because Mount San Jacinto State Park packs a surprising number of trails into its 14,000 square miles. Note that everyone entering the wilderness area for the day or for camping must have a permit in their possession. Day-use wilderness permits are free and are available at the State Park Headquarters in Idyllwild or at the Long Valley Ranger Station. Applications for overnight permits will be accepted up to 8 weeks in advance.

Happy trails!

Park Advocates Bring State Parks to Sacramento

Tuesday, May 5 marked another successful Park Advocacy Day at the Capitol hosted by California State Parks Foundation. This year, over 160 park advocates from all over the state joined together for a day of advocacy and lobbying on behalf of state parks. The day included presentations by legislators, an expo on the Capitol lawn featuring state park partners and activities, a busy afternoon of legislative visits, and an evening reception to honor two park supporters in the Legislature — Kristin Olsen and Anthony Rendon.

The expo on the Capitol lawn was themed, “California State Parks are Great Places for You and Me.” It included booths from dozens of park partners showcasing why they love parks and what activities their local parks provide. Booths included trail stewardship, water sampling, recycling, theater, animals, historic dress, fire research, documentary, marine life, and more.

Advocates lobbied three bills in particular during their legislative appointments:

  1. Assembly Bill 327 (Gordon) — This bill would extend a prevailing wage exemption for public works volunteers for the next 7 years so that volunteers may continue to offer unpaid work to state parks. Advocates expressed how important volunteer work is in state parks, particularly as budget cuts have stretched park staff too thin.
  2. Assembly Bill 988 (Stone) — This bill would create an Outdoor Environmental Education and Recreation Grant Program within DPR to award grants to public organizations and/or nonprofits for outdoor environmental education and recreation programs. Advocates emphasized how important it is to give kids, particularly at-risk youth, the opportunity to experience the outdoors.
  3. Senate Bill 317 (De León) — This bill would create the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Rivers and Coastal Protection Bond of 2016, a $2.4 billion bond to be placed on the November 2016 ballot for approval by California voters. The bond would provide substantial funding for various park areas, including local parks, state parks, rivers/lakes/streams, coastal conservation, climate resilience, and more.

After advocates finished meeting with nearly every office in the Capitol, they rejoined together at the Elks Tower Ballroom for a reception to celebrate their hard work, as well as recognize Assemblymembers Kristin Olsen and Anthony Rendon for their work on behalf of state parks.

It was a great day in Sacramento. Kudos to all the amazing park advocates who came out to support their state parks!

Volunteers Made Earth Day Count in California State Parks

Our 2015 Earth Day Restoration & Cleanup on Saturday, April 18 was a huge success! Awesome, happy, hardworking volunteers came out to 27 state parks throughout California to lend a helping hand, and their work made a big impact!

Here are just a few of the great volunteers:

Earth Day would not be possible without the generous donations and hardworking volunteers from presenting sponsor PG&E, as well as sponsors Chevron, Oracle and Edison. Thank you sponsors!

Special thanks also goes to our refreshment providers Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Togo’s, Larabar, Subway, and The Fruit Guys. Their generosity fed some very hungry volunteers.

A shout out also to our media partners who helped us get the word out about our event and find those awesome volunteers.

And finally, big props to the park staff who coordinated these projects and gave us all an opportunity to make a direct impact for Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day, indeed.

Volunteer Profile: Anchor Brewing at China Camp State Park

anchor_volunteersWe are extremely lucky to have amazing volunteers who participate in our Park Champions Program. Park Champions is our ongoing volunteer program for which we coordinate several volunteer projects at state parks all over California each month. Small groups of volunteers work incredibly hard and make substantial and tangible changes in just a few hours.

Check out some of the photo highlights on our Flickr page. You’ll notice that hard work is always rewarded with seriously delicious lunches.

One recent volunteer day at China Camp State Park brought out a group from Anchor Brewing Company, a great partner to CSPF. They wrote about their experience on the Anchor Brewing Blog:

On a brisk, clear day in late November, a group of Anchor employees gathered at one of California’s many beautiful state parks to help build an outdoor education classroom. The volunteer event took place at China Camp State Park, located along the shore of San Francisco Bay in Marin County, just north of the City. The day’s tasks included painting a base coat on a decommissioned water tank (where students will soon be painting a mural), assembling a new fence, and stripping bark off of logs that will be converted into a climbing structure. The collaborative effort of the Anchor volunteers and state park staff helped revitalize this part of the park that students and teachers will soon be able to utilize for a multitude of outdoor educational activities.

The event was the second volunteer day for Anchor employees in collaboration with the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF). Anchor’s partnership with CSPF was launched in February 2013 with the release of Anchor California Lager®. California’s state parks system, Anchor’s history, and California’s first genuine lager were all born in the second half of the 19th century, and as a tribute to our shared history and traditions, a partnership seemed natural to us.

Read more of their post at: anchorbrewing.com/blog/anchor-brewing-volunteer-day-at-china-camp-state-park/

A big thank you to the Anchor folks for their hard work and their ongoing support of CSPF!

If you are the beer drinking kind, remember that Anchor donates a portion of the proceeds from sales of California Lager to CSPF, so be sure to give it a try.

For information about how you can volunteer with our Park Champions Program, visit our website and find an upcoming workday near you.  We would greatly appreciate your help!

CSPF’s Earth Day is this Saturday

Ashley Cookerly, Richard Cookerly

Just helping the earth over here

This Saturday, April 13, hundreds of Californians will get out of bed early, throw on an old pair of jeans, and head to their local state park to volunteer at our 16th annual Earth Day Restoration & Clean Up presented by PG&E. It’s one of our most fun events of the year, and we are looking forward to it!

We think there’s no better way to celebrate Earth Day than by getting out to a park you love and get your hands a little dirty planting seeds, pulling weeds, building fences, painting railings and fixing up campsites. Plus, it’s cool to know that there will be folks all across the state at 24 different parks working towards the same good cause.

Most of our 24 sites filled to capacity (because our volunteers are awesome!) but a few sites still have open space. Consider walking up to volunteer at one of these parks Saturday morning:

  • Auburn State Recreation Area
  • Benicia State Recreation Area
  • Doheny State Beach
  • Jack London State Historic Park
  • Mt. Tamalpais State Park
  • Picacho State Recreation Area
  • San Clemente State Beach
  • San Onofre State Beach

These could be your helping hands

We are, of course, extremely grateful to our Earth Day sponsors whose generous contributions of grants, volunteers and in-kind donations make this event possible. PG&E, our presenting statewide sponsor, provided $210,000 to fund project sites across the state. Our other awesome sponsors include Chevron, Oracle, Southern California Gas Company, Edison International and Virgin America. Our in-kind sponsors providing fuel to our hungry volunteers are Chipotle Mexican Grill, KIND Healthy Snacks, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Starbucks Coffee, Noah’s Bagels and The Fruit Guys. Yummy stuff!

So we’ll see you bright and early Saturday morning, earth lovers!

Recommendations for a Better Parks System

Yesterday, the Little Hoover Commission released a report on state parks titled “Beyond Crisis: Recapturing Excellence in California’s State Park System.” We at CSPF have been reading the report with great interest, and we think you should be interested, too.

But first … a little background on the Little Hoover Commission. It’s a 13-member independent state oversight agency appointed by the governor and Legislature. The commission investigates state government operations and writes reports and recommendations that promote efficiency, economy and improved service.

About a year ago, the commission began to look at the long-term vision of California state parks and the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). This was a lengthy process which included many hearings and interviews. CSPF staff testified several times before the commission.

The 120-page report was released Monday morning, and can be downloaded online.

The report is direct and comprehensive. The Executive Summary is quick to read and will give you a good flavor for the report. Some of the top level recommendations to the state include:California State Parks - cover page 1

  1. Develop a new vision for DPR.
  2. Assess which parks should remain state parks and which ones would be better transferred to local control.
  3. Enable state parks to generate more revenue with a more enterprise-based operating model.
  4. Commit General Fund support to DPR with flexibility for revenue generation and more transparent financial reporting.
  5. Develop incentives and performance measures reported in annual performance reports.
  6. Give DPR more flexibility to hire and promote a range of skilled employees.

CSPF agrees with the commission’s top-level recommendations for the future direction of California’s state parks. We find the call for a new vision for parks very consistent with our 2011 report: “A Vision for Excellence for California State Parks.” It was also consistent with the testimony that CSPF gave before the commission.

Read our full statement about the report online.

We are excited to see what comes next for state parks, and we at CSPF plan to continue to be there to represent as your voice for state parks. What do you think about the report? Let us know in the comments.

Here’s to a positive future for our parks!

Guest Post: Full-Time RVing, Public Parks and Photography


Levonne is an artist and author of several blogs about her family’s three-year relocation adventure from the U.S. southwest to California during the Great Recession. During that period, they volunteered as park caretakers and campground hosts and lived in some of California’s public parks.

Hearst Castle © Levonne Gaddy

My husband John and I have lived in our thirty-foot Jazz fifth-wheel trailer for three years. If it had not been for beautiful public parks, my sacred camera and my equally sacred laptop computer, I don’t know that I could have made it.

Our original plan when we hit the road three years ago was to find meaningful work and a community that we would love on the Central California coast. We left a comfortable home, jobs and a known community to relocate after fifteen years in the U.S. Southwest. We left in the midst of the 2008 Great Recession.

Having been enthusiastic recreational vehicle campers to Central Coast California for over twenty years, we felt adequately qualified to decide that we wanted to be permanent California residents. Our positive exposure to camp hosts in public parks over the years led us to pursue volunteer camp host jobs as a way to give something back to the communities we loved and to anchor us in our transition.

Camp host duties usually include providing campers with information, doing camp checks to make sure visitors have paid their fees, staffing visitor centers and museums and general cleanup around campgrounds. Most hosts work approximately 20 hours a week and in exchange are provided with a full-hookup campsite during their stay.

Annadel © Levonne Gaddy

When we arrived in California in the fall of 2009, a state budget was being negotiated. A partial remedy for the $26.3 billion state budget deficit was a plan to close 220 state parks.

John and I were quite happy when funds were found to keep the state parks open. We were able to live-on volunteer at several parks including Oceano State Park in the Pismo Beach area, Morro Strand State Beach in Morro Bay and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in Big Sur.

As fulltime RVers and California parks volunteers, I took great pleasure in photographing the beauty of the parks and in writing about our experiences in my blogs at www.levonnegaddy.com.

I am currently engaged in a campaign to raise funds so that I may turn stories and pictures into a book that I will use to raise awareness about California parks. In addition to park closures, there are other very real challenges. Some of those challenges are habitat destruction by overuse; protection of native species at the expense of recreation; and reclaiming industrial brown fields to create new parks in dense urban areas.

In September (2012), current Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that averted closures yet again. AB 1478 placed a two-year moratorium on state park closures. That means that in less than a year and a half, closures will be at issue once more. I am happy to do my part to help save our wonderful public spaces in California.

Pfeiffer Big Sur © Levonne Gaddy

You may go to California State Parks Foundation http://www.calparks.org/takeaction/parkclosures/ to learn what you can do to help save our parks.

To learn more about my book project, please see “This Restless Life: a study of Central Coast California parks through photography, interpretive collage and stories” on Kickstarter.

50% (up to $1,000) of the amount raised over Levonne’s funding goal will go to California State Parks Foundation. Be sure to check out Kickstarter!

Join us for an online forum on “Saving Our State Parks”

Click to register!

California Preservation Foundation and California State Parks Foundation are offering a FREE online forum, “Saving Our State Parks,” on Tuesday, September 18 at 12 p.m. This online forum is open to the public.

Registration is FREE so sign up now to reserve your spot!

According to the Department of Parks and Recreation, 235 of California’s 279 state park units contain significant cultural resource features. These resources are currently at risk due to the ongoing budget crisis impacting California’s state parks.

CSPF’s VP of Government Affairs Traci Verardo-Torres will provide an overview as to why California’s state parks are at risk, what is being done to address the problem, and how organizations and individuals can get involved in efforts to Save Our State Parks.

The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session. If you have a specific question you would like to submit ahead of time please email it to Jennifer Gates at jgates@californiapreservation.org.

For additional information or questions please contact California Preservation Foundation at cpf@californiapreservation.org or call 415-495-0349.

Guest Post: This State Park is Pure Gold


David Slack is the Accounting Manager in the California State Parks Foundation’s San Francisco office. He fell in love with Plumas-Eureka after a visit this spring and is now frequently spotted wearing his Plumas-Eureka State Park Foundation shirt around the office.  This is his take on his new favorite park.

I recently found myself at the Plumas-Eureka State Park for my second and third visit this summer.

Gary (left) and David (right)

For the past several years I have been spending more time in the Greaegle/Portola area of the Tahoe Mountains, and when I saw the Plumas-Eureka State Park was on the state parks closure list, I thought I should check it out before it was too late.

Our first visit to the Plumas-Eureka State Park was around Memorial Day this year, when we had company visiting. We intended to see more of the park, but once we arrived at the museum we were so fascinated with the history of the formation of the surrounding mountains, as well as the exhibits, stories and photos of the Gold Miners who flocked to this area in the mid-1800s to try to strike it rich, we spent several hours just around the museum itself.

The main museum has a variety of displays focused on the local animals, rocks and minerals, as well as the gold mining that made many a man rich for their efforts.

There is a mining machinery display, a mill and a blacksmith shop, as well as photos and stories of life in the 1840s and 1850s in this area near Johnsonville, CA.

Mining machinery at Plumas-Eureka

It’s free to visit the park and the museum for a day, however, if you’d like to stay at one of the 67 campsites, there is a nominal charge for that. You can even go gold panning for a day for $4.

The following week we had different company, and brought them to the museum to share what we’d found, where we began speaking with Pat O’Reilly, an interpreter with the park. He said he was leading a hike the next day, and we made plans to go along.

The next day Pat led us along the Eureka Peak Trail Loop. It was a bit over 1.5 miles, and we saw Mountain Quail, White Headed Woodpeckers and Olive Sided Flycatchers.

He also pointed out Lodgepole Pines, Western White Pines, Scolars willows, and huge sugar pine cones. The Lake itself was so still and quite. What a sight.

Once we were back at the museum, we stared speaking with one of the Docents, and we were happy to learn that the Plumas-Eureka State Park Foundation was attempting to raise enough monies to keep the park open for another year. After such a fun time, I had to join the Association.

Jamison Creek

On our way out of the park, we found another picnic area on Jamison Creek, where the water was crystal clear, and cold as ice. We couldn’t help but kicking off our shoes and dipping our feet in.

What a fun trip.

Have you been to Plumas-Eureka State Park?