08 September 2012

California State Parks Film Showing in Carbon Canyon

This afternoon there was an excellent documentary film about California State Parks, called California Forever, which premiered this afternoon at the Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center in the Brea side of Carbon Canyon.  This evening was a larger event that featured a showing, a silent auction, and other activities.

The film provided a very solid and interesting overview of the history of the system, starting with the world's very first national designation of a place for preservation: the federal government's donation of Yosemite Valley to the State of California in the 1860s.  While John Muir's later forays into the Sierra Nevada Mountains made him the major symbolic figure of environmental stewardship, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, most famous for his design of New York City's Central Park, was hired to craft a plan for the management of the valley.  Although Olmsted put a great deal of thought about the future of Yosemite, his prescient vision was disregarded.

Unfortunately, and this is very contemporary, overbuilding and overuse for the remaining part of the century deteriorated the condition of one of the most beautiful places on earth and, in 1906, Congress rescinded the act and Yosemite became a national park instead.

It was twenty more years until California organized a state parks department and much had changed as the population of the state continued to grow, especially during the so-called Roaring Twenties.  In 1928, the parks department was organized and an $8 million bond measure was passed by voters with a margin of more than 3 to 1, demonstrating how committed California's citizens were generally to preservation of land and the creation of recreational opportunities.

Notably, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., like his father a major landscape architect who also created a parks plan for Los Angeles that was disregarded, spent a year working to identify well over one hundred significant sites to be included in the new state parks system and submitted his remarkable plan in 1929.

Even in the Great Depression years, federal and state programs used unemployed workers to build roads, camping facilities, restore and recreate historic structures, and other valuable work to shore up the parks system.   With the post-World War II population boom and increase in tourism, California State Parks became a model for other states and countries to emulate, not unlike our highway and educational systems.

The film covered many areas of the park system, from natural areas to historic sites and to the important work by Claire Schlotterbeck of Olinda Village and her Hills for Everyone organization, whose monumental task to create Chino Hills State Park thirty years ago cannot be overestimated in its importance.

Not discussed were current conditions, in which budgets have been slashed, services stifled and the threat of massive closures to a system that serves 80 million visitors annually.  It was more than ironic to see comments from parks director Ruth Coleman, who abruptly resigned recently after over $50 million were found hidden in accounts concealed by department employees, apparently without Coleman's knowledge, but she had to fall on her proverbial sword.

Still, it seems obvious that the film was made to bring attention to the obvious need for California State Parks to be given the credit, attention and money it deserves.  It'd be nice to think that enough people will see this well-done documentary to help that happen, but the state's problems are of such breadth, depth and magnitude that it hardly seems likely.

A post-showing hike up a bit of Telegraph Canyon and the Diemer Trail to the South Ridge Trail overlooking Yorba Linda was a nice way to get in a little exercise and direct appreciation for the immense value of Chino Hills State Park.  And, a delicious camarones a la diabla on the patio amidst a nice sunset at the wonderful Sol de México restaurant in Olinda Village, always highly recommended, capped off a fine excursion.

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