One of the enduring qualities of the American way of the life is the ability to take off for the weekend. With is vast resources of open space, there are a plethora of options available across the length and breadth of our rich and diverse landscape.
That point is beautifully illustrated at Pinnacles National Park, whose corporate website proclaims: “At America’s newest National Park, the possibilities for discovery are limitless! Climbing and hiking among the breathtaking spires and rock formations that gave Pinnacles its name is only the beginning of what the park has to offer. Come seek out the California Condor in the high peaks, explore the rare chaparral vegetation and carpets of wildflowers, or just picnic at the visitor center.”
Pinnacles National Park is located about 40 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and about 80 miles south of the San Francisco Bay Area. The park is in the southern portion of the Gabilan Range, part of California’s Coast Ranges.
Pinnacles has a long and rich history of human habitation and anthropologists believe Pinnacles was intermittently occupied by groups of Native Americans. Evidence in the form of arrowheads and bedrock mortars have been discovered within the Park. However, only a small percentage of the Park has been archeologically surveyed and the settlement pattern and impact of pre-European contact people in Pinnacles is yet to be determined.
Following the arrival of the Spanish in the previous century, in 1891 Schuyler Hain, a homesteader, arrived in the Pinnacles area from Michigan. During the next 20 years he became known as the “Father of Pinnacles” leading tours up through Bear Valley and into the caves. Hain spoke to groups and wrote articles urging preservation of the area and acted as unofficial caretaker for many years. His efforts proved fruitful with the establishment of Pinnacles as a 2,500 acre national monument in 1908, by President Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1920 a one-way dirt road was constructed up to the Bear Gulch area making access to the caves easier for the increasing numbers of local residents who enjoyed camping and picnicking in the Park.
Since 1908, the Monument increased in bits and pieces to its present size of about 26,000 acres. Then on January 10, 2013 President Barack Obama signed into law legislation passed by Congress to re-designate the monument to a National Park. Many visitors come to hike, picnic, bird watch, rock climb, learn about geology and plants, see wild animals or perhaps to simply enjoy the wilderness which offers peace and quiet.
Today of course, education plays a fundamental role in the Park’s function and there are plenty of activities for tomorrow’s leaders to learn about the importance of conservation through the Junior Ranger and Scout Ranger Programs in operation.
Of course looking to the future security of the Park relies heavily on reflecting on its past and on August 25, 2016, the National Park Service turns 100.
“To us, it’s not about cakes and candles,” states the corporate website, “it’s about being an organization ready to take on the challenges of our second century. Our blueprint to get there — A Call to Action — outlines the innovative work we want to accomplish. Pinnacles National Park is a big part of this effort.
“America has changed dramatically since the birth of the National park Service in 1916. The roots of the National Park Service lie in the parks’ majestic, often isolated natural wonders and in places that exemplify our cultural heritage, but our reach now extends to places difficult to imagine 100 years ago – into urban centers, across rural landscapes, deep within oceans, and across night skies.
“In our second century, the National Park Service must recommit to exemplary stewardship and public enjoyment of these places. We must promote the contributions that national parks and our community assistance programs make to create jobs, strengthen local economies, and support ecosystem services. We must strategically integrate our mission across parks and programs and use their collective power to leverage resources and expand our contributions to society.”
“A second-century National Park Service:
“Connects People to Parks and helps communities protect what is special to them, highlight their history, and retain or rebuild their economic and environmental sustainability.
“Advances the Education Mission by strengthening the NPS role as an educational force based on core American values, historical and scientific scholarship, and unbiased translation of the complexities of the American experience.
“Preserves America’s Special Places and is a leader in extending the benefits of conservation across physical, social, political, and international boundaries in partnership with others.
“Enhances Professional and Organizational Excellence, by adapting to the changing needs of visitors, communities, and partners; encouraging organizational innovation; and giving employees the chance to reach their full potential.
“In our second century, we will fully represent our nation’s ethnically and culturally diverse communities. To achieve the promise of democracy, we will create and deliver activities, programs, and services that honor, examine, and interpret America’s complex heritage. By investing in the preservation, interpretation, and restoration of the parks and by extending the benefits of conservation to communities, the National Park Service will inspire a “more perfect union,” offering renewed hope to each generation of Americans.”