Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up all over the state! California state parks are great places to view all the beautiful blooms. Here are six of our favorite places to view wildflowers:
©When you think of Los Angeles, “serenity” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind. The city has a reputation for smoggy skies and bumper-to-bumper traffic, and residents looking for a peaceful outdoor escape may think they need to leave town to find it. But what many locals don’t realize is that natural beauty and state parks can be found within city limits. Rio de Los Angeles is one such state park that offers access to hiking trails, recreation areas, wildlife, and more – and it’s only getting better.
Located along the Los Angeles River (the “Rio de Los Angeles”) in the Glassell Park neighborhood of Northeast Los Angeles, the site of this state park was once used mainly for the maintenance and repair of railroad cars. Today, the park boasts sports fields, a playground, a recreation building, hiking trails, and places for gathering and taking a breather, like The Artist’s Bench, a tiled seating installation created by local artist Suzanne Siegel and students from Aragon Avenue Elementary School. And most recently, Park Stewards including CSPF’s Park Champions volunteers have embarked on the creation of four new gardens that will enhance the beauty of the park and the experiences of its visitors.
The four gardens include a Sensory Garden, an Edible and Medicinal Garden, a Butterfly Garden, and a Bird Garden.
- The Sensory Garden will encourage visitors to wander through and enjoy the scents of plants like native bay, mint, sage, and other aromatic species.
- The Edible and Medicinal Garden will include plant species native to the Los Angeles basin that nourished and healed native peoples for thousands of years.
- The Butterfly Garden will be planted with a variety of California native milkweed species as well as known host plants for southern California butterfly species.
- The Bird Garden will be planted with berry and fruit producing shrubs to attract songbirds, and nectary flowering species to attract hummingbirds.
The Sensory Garden was planted in December 2014 by Park Champions volunteers, and the other gardens will begin to take shape over the next two years.
“These native gardens are meant to unite the two goals of having native habitat to support the local ecosystem, and offering community enjoyment and interpretive opportunities to connect with the incredible character of California native plants,” says Margaret Oakley Otto, the Southern California Program Consultant for the Park Champions Program.
Stop by Rio today to see the progress and enjoy the many activities the park has to offer. And if you would like to join the efforts to improve Rio de Los Angeles State Park, check out the Park Champions volunteer calendar to sign up for upcoming workdays.
story BY CSPF Program Assistant Meredith Alling
IRMA R. MUÑOZ
“My love and deep appreciation for parks comes from the wonderful childhood memories of having a paradise where I could play, dream, run, laugh and explore nature. I want the same ‘paradises’ to always be available, especially to children and youth.”
Irma Muñoz is a community builder, activist, advocate, and instiller of confidence and hope. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Irma is one of seven sisters. She was brought up in a home with strong family values, an unwavering commitment to education and a deep respect for their Mexican heritage and cultural traditions.
She is the Founder/President of Mujeres de la Tierra, a non-traditional environmental non-profit in Los Angeles.
Mujeres de la Tierra inspires and teaches women and their children to take ownership and leadership of neighborhood issues and challenges. One of the main goals is to identify holistic and practical approaches to solving local environmental issues by balancing efforts to address environmental woes with the needs of family survival. Mujeres supports the building of healthier and sustainable neighborhoods through public engagement and individual participation.
Irma is an avid supporter and advocate of open space and a state park advocate; inspiring hundreds of park users to take an active role in restoration and beautification efforts. As a member of the Latino Coalition, her advocacy work contributed to the passage of the statewide ban on plastic bags, an accomplishment finally realized after eight long years. She also serves on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Board of Directors, serving as Board Chair in 2013. Governor Jerry Brown appointed her to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board where she serves as Vice Chair.
In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Irma was named a “community champion” by the Annenberg Foundation for excellence in leadership in Los Angeles County and honored by Senator Curren Price as a “SheHero” for her role in improving the health of families in Senatorial District 26. In 2011, the California State Parks Foundation named her “Park Hero” in their 2011 Annual Report.
Her work with Mujeres de la Tierra has been featured in Newsweek Earth Day 2009, the November 2008 issue of O, Oprah Magazine and was named in Hispanic Business Magazine’s 100 Influential Hispanics in October 2008 and La Opinion’s Mujeres Destacadas 2007 community award for leadership.
Irma Muñoz attended El Camino Community College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego and a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.
The California State Parks Foundation would like to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) by recognizing the important role Hispanics have played in our state parks. We will introduce you to several folks here in California who are truly state parks champions! They are just a few of the many others who work hard on behalf of state parks, open spaces and public lands. We salute these champions and their important work to ensure that parks of all types are accessible to everyone in the state. We will be profiling them in the weeks to come.
We would also like to invite you to listen to two fantastic keynote speakers from CSPF’s Hidden Stories Conference: Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Senior Vice President for Historic Sites, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and CSPF President Elizabeth Goldstein. The conference, which took place in Los Angeles during last year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, was entitled: Folding Back the Layers of California’s Latino/a History. The Stories beneath the Stories.
¡Parques para todos!
Board Member, CSPF
Summer may be drawing to a close, but there are still plenty of fun events and activities taking place at state parks for the next few weeks.
To help inspire your visits, we’ve put together a list of over 150 events and activities taking place in state parks between now and October. Our list includes a variety of experiences — everything from music festivals and theater to guided hikes, historical walking tours, train rides and star parties.
After you attend an event in a state park, submit your photos to our “End Your Summer in A Great Place” Photo Challenge. The challenge is simple: just upload photos from your trips to California’s state parks on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win fun prizes from our online store!
The “End Your Summer in A Great Place” Photo Challenge is part of our ongoing effort to celebrate the 150th anniversary of state parks by reflecting on the many reasons why California’s State Parks are Great Places. Over the past 8 months, we’ve been working to spread the word about the many reasons State Parks are Great Places. We’ve showcased stories and photos submitted by park supporters at the State Capitol during Park Advocacy Day and in Yosemite Valley during the Yosemite Grant Act 150th Anniversary event on June 30.
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.”
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.
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.”
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
The birds are singing, dried wood littering the forest floor is crunching beneath your feet and there is a glistening lake laid out before you. Getting right back to nature—is there a more memorable adventurous type of weekend out there for families? Certainly not, especially when you consider the amount of freedom that is provided when we step out of the rat race and discover really what nature has to offer. State parks provide a great way to explore the wilderness with ease, and ensure these beautiful areas of our Californian state will always remain that way for generation upon generation to enjoy.
Discover Something New
Children are of course forever looking to discover something new, to interpret the world in a different exciting manner by hunting out the adventure. Who can blame them, there is surely a small part of this in every adult as well, which is why visiting state parks can be the basis of a great weekend that has something to offer for the whole family. Discover giants with your children—giant sequoias and coastal redwoods are protected by the state in the parks, and the feeling of awe when walking through these is second to none. In fact 95% of coastal redwood has been logged, which is a grave tragedy. The fact that they will always be persevered in state parks is just another reason to visit on your next vacation. The history of California is prevalent throughout the parks, whether that is seen in the age-old ringing chimes of nature or the Fischer-Hanlon House in Benicia Capitol State Historic, Park, where you will be able to truly experience 19th century upper middle class family life. History is truly prevalent throughout all the state parks. Why not rent a family-sized RV to travel between the state parks to ensure not one inch of the natural beauty here is missed?
The Leading Star in Any Trip
There is a wealth of activities on offer in these parks. Get back to basics and look up at the night sky—there are several parks that offer astronomy programs, and even observatories, creating those unforgettable, once in a life time experiences. California is in itself a fabulously diverse state with a range of things to offer whether you like trips by the beach, in the mountains or in the city. Santa Monica Mirror reported that for the Memorial Day Weekend more than 2.6 million Southern Californians were expected to travel more than fifty miles. In a state that is so diverse, though, this relatively small distance can land you in almost a different plant. It would be a massive shame to miss out on the huge array of different state parks on any trip to this varied place. Of course with such a sunny climate, California is a great tourist destination no matter what you are looking for, but to create something really special, take off from the normal tourist routes and travel around some of the beautiful state parks of California. The great thing about these parks is that they are so accessible and dotted all over the state making it a great experience to incorporate in any vacation, whatever you have in mind.
Make a Splash
California’s state parks aren’t just about trekking around and taking in the picturesque sights, there are also a great many number of water based activities to occupy your families’ time on a weekend trip, including power boating on a lake or simply taking part in a leisurely canoe tour. So many of these parks provide the perfect backdrop into a world of escapism. Why not visit Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Parks, where you can get lost in a lava-scarred land only accessible by boat. What kid—or adult for that matter—would not want to explore all that there is on offer here. There is something surely so innate, so peaceful about spending time on the world’s waterways, and California most certainly has its fair share of beautiful spots to visit whilst taking vacation.
The fact of the matter is that California is teeming with a wealth of different experiences, adventures and forms of escapism just waiting to be taken, but for a real trip back into the natural beauty of this state, and to really get a feel of all that is on offer, there really is no greater weekend than that which is built around trips to the fabulously diverse state parks. California is forever changing and modernizing like everywhere else in the world, but the state parks without a doubt provide a solid piece of nature that we must always treasure.
CONTRIBUTED BY SITE READER SUSIE COMPTON
California is rich in state parks. Lakes, mountains, beaches, forests, historical features, culture, and camping – there’s a park for everyone, and all tastes can be accommodated within the gorgeous, soaring scenery. Visiting a state park, however, may be particularly beneficial if you want to get your children into a fit and healthy way of life. From gaining essential nutrients to staving off illnesses like depression and attention-deficit disorders, research is consistently proving that getting them out into nature is one of the absolute best things you can do for your kids. Here is why:
Get Some Vitamin D
Going outside is massively beneficial from a nutritional point of view. This may seem like an odd claim to make, as the act of simply strolling through a state park does not involve an awful lot of eating. The simple fact is, however, that the body cannot gain enough of Vitamin D – a vitamin essential for absorbing calcium and growing healthy bones – through food alone. It is made naturally by the skin when bare flesh is exposed to sunlight. You don’t need to fry your skin in the sun to gain enough Vitamin D. It is produced very quickly – so do be careful not to let your children burn! So important is Vitamin D that people living in northern climes where it is hard to get sunshine on the skin are strongly advised to take supplements like Walgreen’s “Nature Made” Vitamin D capsules. This is important, as studies in London have found that low levels of Vitamin D lead to “risk of depression in mid-adulthood” and panic disorders. Lack of vitamin D in children has been linked not only to mood disorders like depression, but to skeletal diseases like rickets caused by insufficient calcium absorption. Of course, if you want your children to get all the benefits of vitamin D then you need to make sure that they’re getting plenty of calcium as well. Companies like Yoplait make yogurts which are stuffed full of both calcium and vitamin D – a winning combination given that, as Yoplait point out, “Studies show that calcium absorption improves when taken along with vitamin D”.
Encourage A Healthy Lifestyle
Vitamin D is not only beneficial from a nutritional point of view, however. It – and the healthy outdoor lifestyle with which it is associated – have been linked to general participation in healthy behaviors. Studies have found that people with low levels of Vitamin D are not only susceptible to fatal illnesses like cancer and heart disease, but are also likely to lead highly unhealthy lifestyles. The New York Times reports that “blood levels of Vitamin D are a good barometer of overall health”, and also makes the link between low levels of Vitamin D and “behaviors that contribute to poor health, like a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and a diet heavy in processed and unhealthful foods”. As Kwikmed point out, “obesity levels are on the increase, and this is due to a lack of exercise combined with a bad diet”, so making sure that your children understand about healthy behaviors is absolutely vital if they are not to fall pretty to these increasingly prevalent lifestyle factors. Introducing your children to healthy lifestyle choices that they actually enjoy, such as walking in California’s state parks will therefore not only ensure that they soak up plenty of life-giving Vitamin D, it may also ensure that they develop an appreciation for the need to make healthy choices and care for their bodies. Children who understand that an alternative, healthier lifestyle exists are much more likely to make healthy nutritional choices as they grow older, and treat their bodies with the care that they deserve.
Learn To Walk
Something as simple as taking your children for a walk through California’s beautiful state parks could have untold benefits for their future health and mentalities. Obviously, walking is excellent exercise. Harvard Medical School note that “walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, vascular stiffness and inflammation” as well as promoting strong bone growth and a healthy musculature. However, studies have also shown that walking through a natural environment can have fantastic effects upon the mind as well as the body. Meredith Melnick, writing for Time magazine, states that walking can induce a semi-meditative state highly conducive to positive mental health – “walking is a good opportunity to process the day and let my mind wander without the oppression of the endless to-do list that awaits me at home”. While this effect can be gained through walking in an urban environment, walking through a state park enhances it a hundredfold. In his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’, author Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” – a blanket phrase covering a multitude of childhood problems (such as obesity, depression, and attention disorders). He presents compelling evidence that such disorders are caused (indirectly) through a lack of exposure to and engagement with the natural environment. In an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, he relates his view that a reconnection with nature could improve childhood immensely and pave the way for a happy and productive adulthood. “I’ve lost count of the number of teachers and youth leaders who have told me how different kids become when you get them out into nature. Trouble-makers become leaders. Nature is their Ritalin.”
Get Out, Get Active, Get Healthy
So, if you want your children to become fit, healthy adults with a firm appreciation of the benefits of nature, good mental health, and a willingness to make healthy lifestyle choices, it seems that a day out in one of California’s beautiful state parks may be just the thing!
CONTRIBUTED BY SITE READER SUSIE COMPTON
How do you finish the sentence?
Take a hike? Be a team player? See a star?
We think the possibilities are endless! That’s why we have started a new campaign to collect photos and stories from park users to learn why they think state parks are great. Check out the Great Places campaign here.
We have received some fantastic photos so far. You can see them all on our Flickr page.
We’d love to see your photos! Upload your Great Places images to our campaign webpage now. We may include them in upcoming communications to our members (email and social media) as well as in our Great Places expo taking place during Park Advocacy Day.
We 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!