When 70 California state parks were threatened with closure, the California State Park Foundation asked me to create a documentary web site on the threatened parks. Under a tight deadline, I created an interactive user interface with the webmaster, designed the site, and and researched and wrote 300-word essays for each of the parks. The following piece introduced the site.
What's in a park?
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. — John Muir
The Magnificent 70 celebrates a group of California state parks that were slated to close in 2012, but were saved when people throughout the state rallied to save them.
On this site you can discover a stagecoach stop on the El Camino Real, now surrounded by a city, or a mountain where a Silicon Valley pioneer first measured the earth’s magnetism. There are historic buildings where Northerners and Southerners battled for control of California before the Civil War, where a suffragette was married to a pioneer with two Native American wives, where a buckskinned hunter entertained troops with a mule-skull fiddle, and where an anti-capitalist crusader and Ronald Reagan both lived. Among these parks are Clark Gables’ forest retreat (now home to a popular reggae festival), the site of a school built by a woman who survived the Donner Party only to see her husband hanged by a mob, a Taoist temple from Gold-Rush days, and a ranch that boarded camels imported from Egypt. There are forests with trees older than the Roman Empire and grinding stones used by Native Americans whose ancestors arrived ten thousand years ago. There are streams where salmon have been returning to spawn for millions of years and mountains made of granite plutons from the dinosaur era.
The Magnificent 70 are places where California’s great geologic, natural, cultural, and political legacies come alive and where families return year after year to celebrate their own traditions and invent new ones. Nearly 80 million people visit California’s state parks each year. These are the places that our forefathers and mothers stopped and said: Something important lives here, something beautiful or tragic or both, something to appreciate and enjoy now, and something to conserve for the future.