Sugarloaf and Jack London annual status reports
Since 2012, Kenwood’s Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Glen Ellen’s Jack London State Historic Park have been operated by independent groups, a unique situation in the California Parks Department’s over 300 parks that developed when a budget crisis threatened to close 70 parks statewide.
Local groups stepped up and volunteered to operate five local parks, including Sugarloaf and Jack London, with positive results that have survived many challenges, not the least from park rangers, who distrust the outside management groups and have sought through internal and legal pressure to have them removed.
Team SugarloafThe park has been operated since June 1, 2012, by Team Sugarloaf, a consortium of the Sonoma Ecology Center, the Robert Ferguson Observatory, United Camps, Conferences and Retreats, the Sonoma County Trails Council, and the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association.
Last year was a good year for Sugarloaf, recovering from the disastrous 2017 wildfires that decimated the park’s vegetation, trails and infrastructure. A 20-foot bridge was rebuilt, trail restoration begun, clearing got underway in gullies and ditches. Trail sweeping is ongoing. Some projects for erosion and creek protection are awaiting state approval.
Most of this work was done with over 15,300 hours of work by volunteers from Sugarloaf, the Sonoma Ecology Center (over 10,000 hours) and corporate and other outside groups. Their work is valued at over $420,000.
The 2018-2019 operating revenue jumped from $411,000 to $537,000 over the previous year (the park’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30), though $482,000 in expenses limited the final take to $58,700, a healthy improvement over last fiscal year’s $6,100 deficit.
Team Sugarloaf keeps the park and its campgrounds and trails open all year (weather permitting), staffs the Visitor Center on Friday afternoons and weekends, and hosts a lot of activities during the year.
The Sonoma Ecology Center hosted over 25 K-8 school field trips to the park, two one-week summer science camps, two three-day youth backpacking classes, and three one-day holiday day camps.
Over 150 hikes and other events were held in the park over the past year.
The Sonoma Ecology Center held 16 Spanish Language events, including two campouts. It also co-hosted the first two Spanish language star parties with the Robert Ferguson Observatory.
Visit Team Sugarloaf’s website, sugarloafpark.org, for more information on what’s happening there.
Jack London Park PartnersJack and Charmian London’s eponymous lands on Sonoma Mountain outside of Glen Ellen form a major repository for the famous couple’s collections from worldwide travels, and showcases the advanced farming techniques they put in place to create a forward thinking, thoroughly modern farm in the early years of the twentieth century. (Not to mention providing a world class wilderness park traversing several biomes. )
When in residence, London wrote at least 1,000 words a day, producing a prolific number of articles, essays, short stories and novels that made him one of the richest, best known writers of his day.
In May 2012, the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association (VMNHA), doing business as Jack London Park Partners, (JLPP) became the first non-profit to enter into an operating agreement with the State Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to prevent the park from being shuttered. This was a natural move for an organization established in 1977 to support Annadel State Park, Jack London State Historic Park (JLSHP) and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.
Doing business as Jack London Park Partners, VMNHA has played a key role in the recruitment, training, management and retention of volunteers at all of these parks. VMNHA has also contributed funds to support cultural and recreational programs and create educational exhibits, displays and signage at JLSHP.
JLPP receives no funds from DPR to subsidize the management and operation of the park and depends entirely on private donations to provide programming, administer operations and maintain the grounds and historic structures.
The Partner’s first executive director, Tjiska van Wyk, worked with many agencies and people to create a positive framework for operating the park. Transcendence Theater Company performing summertime Broadway hits with top Broadway and Hollywood performers has become a huge hit and draw to the park, bringing in 14,000 people last year.
Among other things, JLPP has restored and repaired various buildings, including Charmian’s Cottage, adding new concrete foundations, extensive rot repair, and other custom work.
Park volunteers and docents offer free tours to Wolf House and Beauty Ranch on weekends, and specialty tours on request. There are many docent-led tours for school groups.
Over the last year, over 400 people joined in a variety of themed hikes over the park’s 30 miles of trails.
The number of active volunteers has increased, bringing total volunteer hours donated to 15,390; over 100,000 visitors last year brought in $173,215 in attendance fees.
Total income for the year 2018 was roughly $840,000 , and with expenses at $770,000, left nearly $70,000 in the till to invest back in capital improvements.
Learn more about Jack London Park Partners at jacklondonpark.com.