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The Most Visited State Park System in the Nation Is Remaking Itself and Wants Your Buy-In

By Alissa Greenberg, Bay Nature

On a Sunday afternoon in midwinter, tendrils of thin afternoon light drift through the branches of the oldest avocado tree in Santa Cruz County, illuminating a courtyard carpeted with deep green grass and framed by walls of centuries-old adobe. At a picnic table under the tree, Bella Kressman leads the Meuse family — 8-year-old Stella, 3-year-old Skyler and their parents, Eric and Sarah — through a traditional craft workshop.

They chat as they work. “Have you ever been to an event like this?” Kressman asks.

Eric says no; until today, he didn’t know the historic mission was here at all, though he and his family often camp at the many state parks around Santa Cruz. “Longtime listeners, first-time callers!” he jokes.

It would be easy to find versions of this scene in state parks all over California: community members enjoying well-preserved historical and natural spaces and engaging a little more richly with their world. But look closer and there’s an important difference. Once the family leaves, Kressman goes back into the park store to run the cash register. A sign over her shoulder reads, “Thanks — your purchase supports local state parks and beaches. Get a 15 percent discount by joining Friends today.”

Read the complete story at Bay Nature.