Tag Archives: parks

The marathon to reform state parks

I’ve enjoyed watching the Olympics these past three weeks — and not just because it’s hosted in London with a British squad that has surpassed all expectations.  It’s just plain fun to get into obscure sports and watch people at the top of their game run, jump, shoot, dive, cycle, or row their way into the history books. One thing has become clear to me over these weeks, that regardless of whether it is a 10 second sprint or a 2 hour (wow!!) marathon, they are all really marathons in their own rights if you consider the four years worth of work that goes on out of the spotlight to get prepared.

Montgomery Woods State Park. Photo by Peter Buranzon
Montgomery Woods State Park. Photo by Peter Buranzon

The current “event” in the state park crisis has been unfolding as I have watched the Olympics.  Much like the spotlight that shines bright during the gold medal event, all eyes have been focused on the “hidden funds” and other allegations.  The rush is now on to understand what happened, and why, and fix it.   We applaud the Governor’s intention to invest every dollar of the $23 million raised in parks back in the parks to support the partnerships that have been formed, to start to chip away at the deferred maintenance backlog, and to invest in revenue generating projects.  We call on both houses of the legislature to act rapidly and appropriate these funds that were paid by park users.

But once the spotlight moves on, the hard work will really start. If you like, we need to start training for the marathon. The additional $23 million will help around the margins, but still leaves parks vulnerable in the next year’s budget which is just 11 months off.  And beyond that, the underlying problems of parks — chronic underfunding, deferred maintenance, and a leadership and management approach that fails to meet the current challenges  — have taken a generation to build and cannot be fixed overnight.   If it does one thing, the current crisis underscores the need for reform and creates a platform for it to be pursued. I am confident that by the time the world’s attention turns to Rio and the 2016 Olympics, our state parks will look significantly better because of the work the park community is embarking on.  The League will continue to be a leader in this because of our longstanding history with the state park system and because the redwoods we have protected need a strong and vibrant state park system.

I welcome your thoughts about the types of changes you feel are needed to ensure that the future of the redwood state parks.  Also, what event did you get hooked on during the Olympics? For me, it was the hurdles — how they do that so fast I just will never know!

[originally posted on Save the Redwood League “Giant Thoughts” blog, 8/14/2012]

The Redwood Forest: A prescription for kids, adults


Last week up in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park I overheard two young boys: “Daddy, can I take a photo of the creek?” His older brother commented, “I don’t need a camera, I’m going to take a photo with my eyes.” Pretty profound for a conversation between two brothers under 7. And something I will remember next time I reach for my camera as a crutch for memories.

Headed down the trail

The parks, particularly the redwood parks, can capture kids’ attention. I camped with friends over July 4th (unfortunately not in the redwoods, but up at Plumas-Eureka in the Northern Sierra). After four days, my two boys were filthy. Rowan has a memory of his first fish to get away, and Emerson hasn’t asked to watch a movie on his mother’s iPhone for days. It’s just fun and discovery from dawn to dusk. Questions abound, “Is there less oxygen on the freeway because there are no trees?” About bugs, “Is a leach an insect even though it has no legs?”

A lot has been written recently about the importance of kids’ and adults’ connection to nature. The book, The Nature Principle, is an example. Physical and mental health are just the start. Some enlightened doctors are even starting to write “prescriptions for visiting parks.” Spend a few days watching six kids under 5 play around camp, and you know it’s all true.

So as the summer grips us, I hope you find the time to get away and have fun in the redwoods and parks. I’d love to hear about your summer plans and memories of fun times past. Oh, and please forgive me for writing this on my iPhone while I was swinging in my hammock between two Sierra trees. Not a good role model, I know.

[first published on “Giant Thoughts,” Save the Redwoods League, July 10, 2012]

Redwoods’s Magic Shines amid Crisis

After a year of anguish, hard work and some heartbreak, the headlines scream “no parks will close.” Well,except for the five that will. And the ones that will be closed during the week, or off-season. And some haveno ranger patrols and locked bathrooms. Oh, and it’sonly for a year, and then we’re back to square one. What’s that all about?

"Big Tree" in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

At the 11th hour, the California Legislature cobbled together $10 million in fund transfers that — when combined with the operating and donor agreements developed by local nonprofits—will ensure most parks stay open. The League and our members are helping in three of these parks. Our approach speaks to our long history with these parks and the long-term perspective that we take from the redwoods themselves. We’re looking past the next 12 months to identify park enhancements and new modes of working that can help turn the downward trajectory we’ve been on for a generation.

I visited one simple example of an enhancement last weekend at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. For years, the aptly named “Big Tree” has drawn visitors. But all those visitors were trampling the roots and damaging the bark. There’s now a new viewing platform, courtesy of one generous family. It both protects the tree and provides a focal point for visitors. Last Saturday I sat and listened to the families and friends visiting and taking pictures by this iconic tree as the ranger prepared to give an interpretive talk. I spoke with two men on Harleys from Ohio who rode across the country to see these giants.

“Oh man, wait until we tell our buddies about this place—they just won’t believe it,” they said. Amidst the doom and gloom of parks, it was refreshing to see the redwoods being appreciated for what they are: world-class icons that take your breath away.

[first published, “Giant Thoughts,” Save the Redwoods League, July 3, 2012]