Share a Sweet State Park Valentine

Send your loved ones a sweet Valentine courtesy of the California State Parks Foundation that celebrate your love and the great California outdoors!

Happy Valentine’s Day.

XOXO,

California State Parks Foundation

Take Your Valentine to a State Park

This Valentine’s Day, think outside the chocolate box … and surprise your loved one with a date in the great outdoors! Our state parks offer lots of opportunities to enjoy a special day outdoors with your sweetie.

Our state parks provide countless opportunities to explore and learn more about plants, animals and nature. That’s why we think that California’s state parks are Great Places to “Get Wild” with Your Valentine!

Huntington State Beach. ©Paula Schultz -- http://paulasphotoart.smugmug.com/

A romantic stroll along Huntington State Beach. Photo ©Paula Schultz — paulasphotoart.smugmug.com

VALENTINE DATES IN STATE PARKS

In addition to hiking, picnicking, snowshoeing and beach combing, there are several events taking place in state parks that might make a great date with your valentine this holiday weekend:

  • Watch for bald eagles at the free Bald Eagle barge tours taking place at Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area on Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. through March. Please note that reservations are required and these popular tours sell out fast!
  • Head to Natural Bridges State Beach for the annual Beach Migration Festival — a full-day celebration of whales, butterflies, birds and the many creatures that travel.
  • Enjoy a special “Romance in the Redwoods” guided walk at Big Basin Redwoods State Park where you will learn about the courtship behaviors of banana slugs, redwood trees and other creatures found in the park.
  • Join the Tijuana Estuary Nature Preserve’s bi-weekly bird walk and learn about some of the 370 species of birds that live or stop by this Reserve on their yearly migration.
  • Watch for whales and other wildlife during Weekend Whale Talks at MacKerricher State Park.

Are you planning to enjoy the Valentine’s holiday in state parks? Join the conversation and share your Valentine’s Day ideas and state park photos on our Facebook page!

For more events taking place this month in state parks, please visit the Department of Parks and Recreation’s event page.

New Gardens Revitalize Rio de Los Angeles State Park

©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.

reflection

Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Photo Credit: © Margaret Oakley Otto

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.

Rio de Los Angeles State Park, (c) Marygrace Lopez

The Artist’s Bench at Rio de Los Angeles.

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.
sage

Sage plants before planting in the Sensory Garden. Photo Credit: © Will Taylor, wtphoto.com.

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.

planting

Planting the Sensory Garden at a Park Champions volunteer workday. Photo Credit: © Will Taylor, wtphoto.com.

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

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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Great Places Photo Challenge Wrap Up

A photograph taken at a state park can inspire others to experience for themselves why California’s State Parks are Great Places.

That’s why CSPF asked our members and Facebook fans to participate in our “End Your Summer in a Great Place Photo Challenge.” During the Challenge, participants uploaded their favorite state park photos to our Facebook page. Each week during the Challenge, a randomly selected photographer was awarded a prize package from CSPF’s online store, and at the conclusion of the End Your Summer in a Great Place Photo Challenge, we awarded first, second and third place prizes to the photographers whose photos had received the most votes on Facebook.

Photo Challenge Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in the End Your Summer in a Great Places Photo Challenge!

Photo Challenge Submissions

Our Heritage, Our Parks: Meet Raul

RAUL MACIAS

“You can’t just create a park and then leave it. No. You have to care for it and improve it for the future. This park, our park, has a plan for the future.” – Raul Macias

Raul-MaciasRaul Macias is an affable man with an easy smile and an engaging laugh. But when it comes to Rio de Los Angeles State Park and the future of Los Angeles’ youth, he is intense and serious. Raul grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, moved to Los Angeles some 30 years ago and became a successful businessman. He also founded the award winning Anahuak Youth Sports Association, a non-profit children’s sports organization dedicated to providing underserved youth with active recreational opportunities to keep them healthy, engaged and away from gangs.

“I started getting involved in 2002 because my business is next to what is now the park,” says Macias. “When they started planning factories and industry for the site, I worked with my community to take a position on these proposed developments. And after a lot of work, and a lot of meetings, State Parks took over the site and told everyone they could help design it.”

At one point, Macias recalls while laughing, “My wife and daughter said, ‘Why bother coming home? Just take your pillow so you can stay longer at the planning meetings!’”

“You know, Rio de Los Angeles State Park is one of the most important—if not the most important—urban parks in the city,” he said. “It benefits the entire city, but especially the local community. And yet, we have a lot of work to do. I want to get my community back to being close to nature. Many of them work hard all day, maybe play some soccer, go home, and do that all over again. Some of them take this park for granted. I tell them no, don’t do that. Every day you have to do something for this park. Every day you have to learn a little bit more about not only this park but also other parks and open spaces. If you have the right to vote, you have to pay attention to these things in your community.”

Our Heritage, Our Parks: Take a Hike!

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with a free, docent-led hike in Spanish.

Enjoy the fall colors and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month! On this 5-mile, Spanish-language hike, you will learn about some of the common plants and animals that live in this beautiful preserve.

Midpen Hispanic Heritage Celebration and October 2014 Events_Page_1For more information, visit www.openspace.org/activities

End Your Summer in a Great Place

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.

Visit our Facebook page and upload your state park photos today!

Bring a Bit of Nature back into your Weekend

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.

©Mike Shoys, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

©Mike Shoys, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

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?

©Tom Birdsell, Point Cabrillo Light Station

©Tom Birdsell, Point Cabrillo Light Station

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.

©Elin Ljung, Mono Lake

©Elin Ljung, Mono Lake

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

 

Take Your Kids To A State Park and Improve Their Health

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

photo1Going 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

photo2Vitamin 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

090-P65157Something 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

photo4So, 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