The Science of Sustainability

Local Geological State Parks to Close

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Castle Rock State Park; photo courtesy Bill Bumgarner of Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Among the most heartbreaking casualties of California's political crisis are dozens of state parks that are scheduled to be shut down during the coming year, some sooner and some later. Historical monuments, wildlife preserves and simple recreation areas are on the chopping block, along with the experienced staffers who guard and maintain them. Causes for hope are small, but they do exist.

All of the closures are cause for mourning (visit the California State Parks Foundation site to see the whole list), but I will speak for the geologizers among us. From north to south, here are some of the significant properties to close in the Bay Area counties. In some cases there are organized groups active on the park's behalf.

Sonoma County

Austin Creek State Recreation Area: About 6000 acres of meadows and oak-studded hills north of Guerneville are set in classic Franciscan rocks including serpentinite, sandstone, greenstone and silica-carbonate rocks.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: East of Santa Rosa is 2700 acres of varied rocks including Franciscan serpentinite, melange and greenstone, mudrocks of the Great Valley sequence, and young Sonoma Volcanics. The Ferguson Observatory is also there.

Marin County

Olompali State Historic Park: Trails in this former ranch give access to the Miocene volcanic rocks of Burdell Mountain, kin to the Moraga basalt of the East Bay hills.

Samuel P. Taylor State Park: The steep walls of Lagunitas Creek and the grassy uplands of Barnabe Mountain lie within Franciscan melange and other rocks.

Tomales Bay State Park: The stick-straight ditch of Tomales Bay marks the trace of the San Andreas fault, and the Salinian granitic rocks on the western shore contrast sharply with the Franciscan rocks on the other side.

San Mateo County

Gray Whale Cove State Beach: On the shore below Devil's Slide is this intimate beach exposing the long-traveled granitic rock known as Montara Quartz Diorite (which I showed you at Quarry Park in El Granada).

Portola Redwoods State Park: Along with the mighty redwoods and pristine creeks are exposures of the young Monterey Formation and the shelly Purisima Formation as well as basalt. The Portola and Castle Rock Foundation has an interest here.

Santa Clara County

Henry Coe State Park: Northern California's largest state park has every rock type found in the Diablo Range (Franciscan and Great Valley Sequence) in its 80,000 acres, with the rugged terrain that displays them best. The Pine Ridge Association has been involved with the park since 1975, and the Coe Park Preservation Fund is taking donations.

Santa Cruz County

Castle Rock State Park: At the county's northern tip is a climber's and photographer's playland, and a geologizer's place to study the Vaqueros Sandstone. The Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks are involved, as is the local Sierra Club chapter.

If you go farther afield, there are other precious places set to close all over the state: Castle Crags, Malakoff Diggins, Palomar Mountain, Picacho, Providence Mountains, Mono Lake Tufa, and the California State Mining and Mineral Museum. My colleague, blogger and teacher Garry Hayes, has strong feelings for Limekiln State Park on the Bug Sur coast. If you have more, by all means mention them in a comment. The California State Parks Foundation has just launched its Magnificent 70 site to ratchet up the argument.

California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa, a world-class resource set to be shuttered. I have several mineral specimens that I bought here. Photo by Andrew Alden.

Photographer Eliya Selhub has set out to document the parks that are slated to close, at closingcaliforniaparks.com; so have Melody and David Noceti at their 70 in 70 site. Again, if you find more of these, mention them in a comment.

One cause for hope is the passage of Assembly Bill 42 on September 6, which would allow nonprofit organizations to help operate parks on the kill list. Governor Brown loves the outdoors—I greeted him just this week as we shared a parkland trail—and he has a month to sign AB42 into law. Considering the vagaries of legislation, things may change for the better before anything can actually happen under AB42. Still, I think the park closures should be taken seriously. The bill may seem a pitifully small step, and not every park has a Friends organization with the resources to do what's needed, but this is all we have for now. The Parks Foundation has a page to facilitate your support; an old-fashioned letter addressed to "Governor Jerry Brown, Sacramento" will do too.

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Category: Geology

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Andrew Alden

About the Author ()

Andrew Alden earned his geology degree at the University of New Hampshire and moved back to the Bay Area to work at the U.S. Geological Survey for six years. He has written on geology for About.com since its founding in 1997. In 2007, he started the Oakland Geology blog, which won recognition as "Best of the East Bay" from the East Bay Express in 2010. In writing about geology in the Bay Area and surroundings, he hopes to share some of the useful and pleasurable insights that geologists give us—not just facts about the deep past, but an attitude that might be called the deep present. Read his previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.