California Lawmakers: No More Trademarking on Public Land

Ken Cooley is from a Yosemite family. The California state assemblyman raised his boys on hikes in the valley; he took a pack mule trip through the park with friends and colleagues this summer; his grandparents even worked together at the Ahwahnee Hotel way back when.

So the news last month that Delaware North, a privately held company that ran concessions inside the park until last year, had trademarked the names of the park’s most iconic places—Curry Village, Badger Pass, the Ahwahnee, and even “Yosemite National Park” itself—left Cooley flabbergasted. “It is surreal, outrageous,” he says. The National Park Service, as a result of the trademark dispute, will be changing the names of sites as early as March 1.

Diversity needed to better champion parks system

During my more than 30-year career as a California state park ranger, I was known as the diversity guy because I was one of the few Latinos to wear the park ranger uniform.

Similar diversity deficits exist across most park systems. The National Park Service workforce is only 5 percent Latino, a paltry representation.

And that lack of diversity among rangers is, unfortunately, matched by a lack of diversity among the people who visit the park.

Don’t Care About National Parks? The Park Service Needs You To

Flooding and the combined traffic of thousands of cars, trucks and RVs have torn up the roads at Joshua Tree National Park’s Black Rock Canyon Campground. The majority of the park’s $60 million maintenance backlog is for roads like this.
The reason: The type of people who visit the park don’t reflect the type of people living in the community. Tucson is about 44 percent Hispanic or Latino. Of the park’s roughly 650,000 annual visitors, less than 2 percent self-identify as Hispanic. “If we’re not being relevant to almost half of the population, then 30, 40, 50 years from now, the park isn’t going to matter to them,” Sidles says.

Editorial: Close to Home: Coast fees violate mission of state parks

VIRGINIA STROM-MARTIN IS A FORMER MEMBER OF THE STATE ASSEMBLY. Are California’s state parks becoming an “enterprise” organization and less of a traditionally funded state department? The answer, found in the Parks Forward Report, seems to be “yes.” While...

Hop-timistic about frogs

A rare amphibian that has disappeared from 70 percent of its historical range has been given a fighting chance to repopulate on state-protected lands in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California State Parks have signed a Safe Harbor Agreement, a 50-year voluntary conservation pact that calls for the reestablishment of California redlegged frog populations across four state parks in Southern California, covering more than 16,000 acres of parkland. This species is federally threatened and a state species of special concern.

Inviting more Latino youths to the Great Outdoors

t’s a bracing 49 degrees, and a biting wind whips across Lake Natoma as Xico Gonzalez orders two shivering Met Sacramento High School students to put kayaks into the water.

Gonzalez barks out orders for the two to use their oars as they make their way slowly across the still lake. One of those is 18-year-old Elena Lopez, who has kayaked before, but welcomes Gonzalez’s call to get Latino students like her out on the water.

Xico Gonzalez leads a group of Met High School students and others on a hiking and camping trip at Lake Winnemucca Blohm-Craig smiles as Gonzalez lends a hand during the recent outing. Dru Blohm-Craig, center, and Elena Lopez learn kayaking basics from Xico Gonzalez on Jan. 31 at Lake Natoma. Xico Gonzalez leads a group of Met High School students and others on a hiking and camping trip at Lake Winnemucca Blohm-Craig smiles as Gonzalez lends a hand during the recent outing.

KCET: Our Distant Backyard: Accessing Our State Parks

There are moments in life that change you forever. That moment came for me last October when President Obama officially designated the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument.

I had been waiting for an opportunity like this since I was a kid. I grew up in El Monte, in the shadow of the majestic mountain range that I could always see, but never reach. Like many in my community, I didn’t have access to a car and I never got a chance to explore this wonder in my backyard.

There are many young people in urban communities who are ready to become environmental enthusiasts and support conservation efforts.

When President Obama decided to protect the natural beauty of the San Gabriels, he noted that he was doing so as part of a long tradition of preserving the best of our nation for generations to come. But for the urban, park-poor neighborhoods that see the mountains, but have yet to visit them, he made another crucial point: conservation isn’t about locking away these treasures, but about finding ways to open up the outdoors to everybody, across ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic circumstances.

Finding a way to help untapped communities develop a relationship with nature is critical to the future preservation of our natural resources, but it will require a shift in how we engage people with the outdoors.

Parks and Technology: A Match Made in California

disorder” and technology is blamed for commanding too much of our attention.

We all need to get out in nature more, especially kids. All kinds of studies show that getting outdoors is good for us on many different levels. It makes us healthier, less stressed out, and smarter.

But we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that technology is part of the problem. This idea risks keeping innovation out of parks and open spaces, on the misguided grounds that technology somehow interferes with our enjoyment of nature, so we shouldn’t need or want it outdoors. For a lot of people—particularly the young, diverse generation that will be the future of parks and conservation in California—technology is the primary way they connect with the world, even if it’s in the service of getting out into nature to connect with friends and family or to disconnect.

Fortunately, these old-fashioned ideas about the incompatibility of nature and technology are changing fast. Integrating new technology at every level is high on the list of tasks for a “transformation team” created by the Department of Parks and Recreation that is implementing recommendations from the Parks Forward Commission, set up by Governor Jerry Brown to bring our parks into the 21st century.

PD Editorial: Striking a balance on beach fees

You almost certainly know this scene from “Casablanca” even if you haven’t seen the classic film: Claude Rains, playing the local police chief, proclaims “I’m shocked — shocked — to find that gambling is going on in here,” while simultaneously pocketing his winnings.

Sonoma County may have had a “Casablanca” moment of its own with beach fees.

Rains, of course, redeems himself before the credits roll. That’s Hollywood.

Beach fees are politics, so happy endings aren’t assured. But county officials appear to be on a path toward a satisfactory conclusion.

Poppy Reserve opens for 2016 wildflower season

The Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve will be open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on the weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the duration of the wildflower season.
The Interpretive Center, staffed by volunteers, offers wildlife and wildflower displays, a gallery of Jane S. Pinheiro’s detailed watercolor paintings, an orientation video and a gift shop featuring unique wildflower-themed items. Guided tours about the wildflowers and cultural history of the reserve will be offered.

The fight to defend protected ocean areas

Not entirely endorsed by law enforcement, tactics include outreach and education to fishermen on the water — many of whom have bristled at the loss of favorite angling spots and in some cases include wily poachers.

Yosemite concessions have been controversial since 1864

Yosemite inspires passion from most of its more than 4 million visitors annually. It was the fourth-most-visited national park in 2015 (after Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain).

When ardor cools, the breakup can be ugly.

Concessionaire Delaware North lost the bid to continue managing signature properties in Yosemite, but it trademarked the names before it exited. The company now argues that taxpayers (in the form of the National Park Service) must pay $51 million to buy the intellectual property attached to the names.

The Justice Department responded that the value proposed by Delaware North was “improper and wildly inflated.”

Photo Credit: Della Huff