Kirkwood Entrance Opens to Fanfare
With Project Sempervirens Fund, California State Parks, and Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks Describing Model for Success
Have you heard jazz music played in the brand-new amphitheater at Castle Rock while sipping champagne? Well, those who joined us the weekend of September 27 – 28, got to check that off their bucket lists!
While the entrance has been open to visitors since August 1, this weekend was recognized as the Grand Opening, complete with recognition events on both Friday and Saturday. With them, Sempervirens Fund ushers in a new era of partnership, collaboration, and accessibility in the majestic Santa Cruz Mountains through the Robert C. Kirkwood Entrance at Castle Rock State Park.
A 33-acre facility filled with state-of-the-art facilities, the Kirkwood Entrance has already welcomed twice as many visitors to Castle Rock in its first full month of operation than it did the prior year. That may be due to its having triple the available parking, six gender-neutral flush toilets, running water, and accessible pathways and picnic areas. All a vast improvement over the previous entrance.
New Era of Partnership
Chief executives from each of the three main project partners — Sempervirens Fund, California State Parks, and Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks — gave speeches on Friday about each organization's respective roles. They were joined on stage with local elected officials Secretary John Laird, Assemblymember Mark Stone, and Supervisor Bruce McPherson, who spoke about their histories with Castle Rock, parks, and open spaces, as well as the importance of public-private partnerships in creating and expanding parks. Doug McConnell, host of the TV show OpenRoad, emceed on Friday, welcoming both speakers and guests to the event.
“Sempervirens Fund purchased this property in 2011 as part of our commitment to protect and restore redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains for wildlife to inhabit and people to enjoy,” said Sempervirens Fund's Executive Director Sara Barth. “The purchase reflects our most-recent investment in our ongoing mission to conserve new land and expand existing parks like Castle Rock and other state parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains.”
Sempervirens Fund has a long history with Castle Rock State Park, first helping to establish the park in 1968 and then grow it to its 5,400 acres today by buying and then transferring land to California State Parks. However, due to budget constraints with State Parks, the partners developed a new plan to hold the land, install park amenities, and support park operations.
“Paid visitorship has more than doubled in the first month of operation and revenue has more than tripled over this time last year,” explained Bonny Hawley, Executive Director of the nonprofit Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. But the importance of the new Entrance is about more than funding the park. As the closest State Park to San Jose and hundreds of thousands of South Bay Area residents, Castle Rock is a critical park to help connect potential visitors with the wonders of nature right in their backyard.
"To best serve the public, we needed to harness the power of partnership. We need to be more nimble, innovative, and to take some chances,” said California State Parks Director Lisa Mangat in her address at the Grand Opening ceremony. She expressed the future plans for the Robert C. Kirkwood Entrance would be, “to have it nested within an official acquisition and expansion of the park.”
Many Sempervirens Fund supporters attended the events, which included a champagne toast on Saturday, the symbolic untying of climbing rope (insteadof a ribbon-cutting) both Friday and Saturday, and tours of the new facility and its features. Members of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust (descendants of the Native Californians who lived in the area) were on site Saturday answering questions about the plants in the native plant garden, which Sempervirens Fund planted at the Kirkwood Entrance working with the AMLT and the Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Band.
"The entrance is convenient, spacious and welcoming, with great amenities: flush toilets, sinks with running water, and free Wi-Fi," said one guest. "You can use your credit card to pay for parking, and you can get your electric vehicle charged while you hike. It was a long time coming, but worth the wait. Sempervirens Fund should be very proud of what they have created!"
Make Plans to Visit!
If you haven't yet visited the new Kirkwood Entrance, make plans to do so soon! Located at 15451 Skyline Blvd., Los Gatos, CA, 95033, it is open 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day. Be sure to bring your hiking gear and a water bottle--and look out for our upcoming events at the Kirkwood Entrance Saturday, October 19 and Saturday, November 16!
Photos 2 – 9 in slider © Hasain Rasheed Photography. Photo of climbing rope © Eric Schmidt. All other photos © R. Ferretti-Hoyle, Sempervirens Fund.