Tuh Duh! Drum roll please. Presenting Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park, trip number 70 out of 70 of the State Parks that were put on the closure list a year ago! Woohoo! To be honest, when I began my visits in July 2011, I wasn't even sure if I actually intended to get to them all. But I did! And it has been well worth it!
Point Cabrillo Light Station includes the historic 1909 Light Station, and 270 acres of undeveloped coastal bluffs and prairie. The property was purchased and preserved from development in 1992 by the California State Coastal Conservancy and managed by a non-profit affiliate, the North Coast Interpretive Association. It became a state park in 2002.
The park includes not only the light house, but also three restored buildings that were the homes of the light house keepers, a small marine museum, and walking trails that take you through the fields and meadows, and along the spectacular head-lands of Mendocino that thrust out into the Pacific.
Patty and I began our visit by parking in the day-use lot and walking the half mile down the access road. Every few yards was a plaque with a marine science related question, like: "If it takes a Gray Whale two months to travel 6,000 miles from Baja to the Arctic, how many miles per day must it swim?" Word Problems!
But, before our brains hurt too much, we were rescued by the appearance of the light-keepers' homes and out buildings. Photographs and furnishing from the day are inside the three buildings. The exteriors are painted in what we learned were the tradi-tional lighthouse keeper colors, and the gardens filled with all of those lush perennials that refuse to grow at my inland home.
A few more yards down the road is a large shed - The Marine Science Exhibit - a small but packed museum filled with specimens of all sorts. There are a couple of modest aquariums, many shell exhibits, and even a paper mache Gray Whale made by art students from the local Big Brothers and Sisters organization.
The ground floor of the lighthouse is half museum, half gift shop. The stairwell to the top is roped off, for official use only. It is chalk full of the beacon's history, including photographs of lighthouse families from the past.
The emblems of The US Lighthouse Service, The US Life Saving Service and the US Coast Guard were displayed proudly in the museum.
The actual light that cuts through the pea soup fog every ten seconds is itself a classic. It is a Fresnel lens third order rotating optic built by the Chance Brothers of Smethwick England. Most Fresnel lenses were made in France with only about fifteen coming from the British Chance Bros. The Point Cabrillo lens is one of only three remaining in the USA. This four panel lens rotates one complete revolution every forty seconds, thereby producing a "flash" anywhere on the horizon every ten seconds. Gorgeous!
Next we headed out to the cliffs and meadows of the headlands. A Sea Lion was swimming in the cove.
A Deer was munching in the meadow, perhaps on these exotic, two-tone poppies, or the lavender and yellow asters.
Two orange billed Black Oyster Catchers came out to protect their nest from marauding Seagulls. Birds, sea mammals, land mammals, hiking, history, wildflowers and a lighthouse all in one park. Not bad!
When California State Parks acquired Point Cabrillo, the management was assumed by a newly formed non-profit organization: The Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association (PCLK).
The State provided the Coastal Conservancy with four million dollars to be used for the restoration of the Light Station. From 2002 to 2006, the Coastal Conservancy granted that money to the PCLK who used it under the supervision of the State Parks Department. Is this getting confusing yet?
The PLCK used the funds to restore two of the three light keepers' houses and the three historic out buildings. They state that further restoration, along with the historic fencing and gardens will be accomplished as additional funds become available.
Funds? What funds? This park is the 70th park that I have visited that is on the closure list due to lack of funds.
Or so we thought. I cannot close out my year long project without mentioning last week's stunning news that California's Parks and Recreation department "discovered" they had under reported 54 Million Dollars $!$! This has resulted in the resignation of parks director Ruth Coleman, and the firing of one other employee. In case you were out hiking and missed the news, you can read about it in this Sacramento Bee article.
I join those who are outraged at the deception, the cover-up, and whatever else will be revealed in upcoming hearings. Each and every park on the closure list was responsible for finding their own funds to stay open. Thousands of people have contributed time and money in big ways to make it happen. To all of you I say, "Thank You!!!"
I do not regret one minute spent at our beautiful parks. I hope this "found" money returns to parks and rec so that we all can continue our ownership of our amazing and diverse lands.
May the brilliant Fresnel at Point Cabrillo Light Station continue to shine and draw us in. And maybe once in awhile, it can beam towards Sacra-mento and shed some light on any nefarious accounting practices.
And now... for the rest of the state!
I hope to see you at the State Parks.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Father, who loved reading maps, exploring alternate routes, and taking the road less traveled.
Alvin David Dick, April 28, 1926 - May 20, 2012