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Treasures of Land and Sea

By Bettina McBee and Andrea Stuart

Technology‘s impact on our lives has driven us to seek magical places to unplug. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (PLSNR) is one of these places. It’s a vibrantly colored paradise nestled along Highway 1, California’s Pacific Coast Highway, and

stretches from the edge of Monastery Beach toward Big Sur and spans three miles offshore. Its original curators were the Ohlone Indians. Over time, the Spaniards, Portuguese, and Japanese served as custodians of the land as well. Abalone harvesting, coal mining, and whaling are embedded in its history.


In 1933, California State Parks (CASP) was deeded the reserve land. And the Point Lobos Foundation (PLF), a cooperating organization of CASP, was founded in 1978 to provide funding for the reserve. “California has many wonderful outdoor spaces in need of funding,” says PLF Communications Manager Tracy Gillette-Ricci. “The state budget for parks has diminished appreciably over the years. Many state parks were in danger of closure. Foundations, such as PLF, provide a mechanism to directly fund specific parks.”

While the Monterey District of CASP sets the priorities for PLSNR, determining how much and what funding is needed at the county level, it functions with its nonprofit partner, PLF, which wholly supports projects and programs through its donors, memberships, and grants. In addition to funding trail work, facility maintenance, restoration work, invasive plant removal, and other necessary upkeep responsibilities, it provides funding for the Point Lobos docent program, which boasts 250 highly trained volunteers.

A significant role of the docent program is that it provides outreach and transportation for Title 1 schools in Monterey County (fourth grade)—that is, schools receiving federal funding due to high concentrations of student poverty. Educating youth about general conservation principles—including Leave No Trace—is essential for preserving natural habitats for future generations. The principles of Leave No Trace encourage people who venture outdoors to enjoy nature responsibly by minimizing the impact of their activities in the natural environment. The work PLF does with donor support for interpretative programs protects natural and cultural resources and provides a meaningful experience for visitors. It ensures the PLSNR is accessible to all visitors and that those visitors

understand their responsibilities.


By designating PLSNR as a natural reserve, it receives higher protections. The reserve’s unique cultural and ecological significance, fragile habitats, diverse land, and marine inhabitants include 550 land acres and 9,970 marine acres. These areas are protected by regulations that limit visitor impact and therefore, ensure the area’s prosperity.


Hosting visitors from all over the world, the reserve invites people to explore its trails, discover the tide pools, and delight in the diverse marine and plant life. The sounds of the pounding waves and the wind through the trees whisper stories while birdsong fortifies a sense of place. It’s a mystical fairyland.

PLSNR is California’s fifth-oldest reserve and one of 280 California state parks. It was named by the Spanish after the barking sea lions or sea wolves, as they were once known. Gillette-Ricci has worked with PLF for over eight years, helping to keep themspotlight on its mission to educate visitors about the area’s fragile ecosystem. “Point Lobos is indescribable,” says Gillette-Ricci, “I never take for granted the joy I feel when I come here.”


To learn more, visit pointlobos.org.

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