Home Press San Onofre Foundation Touts Preservation and Education

San Onofre Foundation Touts Preservation and Education

By Norb Garrett - San Clemente Times

The new San Onofre Foundation aims to keep the San Mateo Valley and its state parks and beaches intact for all to enjoy.

The view from Pocket Mouse Hill is truly one to behold. On the southern edge of San Clemente just a short hike from Christianitos Road, Pocket Mouse Hill sits 403 feet above sea level. Vistas ranging for miles in every direction; the Pacific Ocean glistens to the west highlighted by the A-frame surf peak at Lower Trestles. Mountains and coastal plains range south through Camp Pendleton and east to the Cleveland National Forest. With a little imagination (just block out Interstate 5 and don’t look north), it’s not too hard to imagine what the area looked like hundreds of years ago when native Americans lived off the land, at one with nature.

The new non-profit San Onofre Foundation strives to keep that image intact forever. The group, which is dedicated to the preservation of the park and is just now formally bringing its message forward, hired local artist Rick Delanty to capture the land as it looked before modern man altered its face with roads and development. His new 30-by-40 acrylic painting on gallery wrap canvas is entitled “San Mateo Valley.” The artwork was commissioned by the new foundation to underscore its mission: “to provide for education and interpretive services regarding all aspects of the natural, cultural, historical and biological diversity of California State Parks at San Onofre and San Clemente State Beaches; promoting environmental awareness and ethics; and enhancing the quality of recreation experience at these unique coastal parks.”

The foundation is something many people have dreamed of and worked towards, but perhaps none more so than Steve Long. Long, who spent 34 years working for state parks before formally retiring from park service last year, has been a longtime champion of the area and vocal advocate for preservation. For him, the San Onofre Foundation’s charter is even more simple than all that: “We want to save the park, not just for what it is today but for what it is going to look like for the next 100 years,” said Long.

The San Onofre Foundation has been formally recognized as a cooperative non-profit by the California State Parks—and is one of a growing number of non-profits that have aligned with the state parks system to help ensure the long-term viability of the parks.

“We have 85 of these types of partnerships supporting our 279 state parks in California,” said Ken Kramer, Orange County District Superintendent with California State Parks. “These are formal partnerships where we reach out and establish a public partnership with a non-profit whose sole mission is to support our efforts towards interpretation and educational programming supporting the development of the parks. These groups provide irreplaceable support, but really they are our first effort to get out into the community and get folks involved and connect them to their park.”

Between San Onofre State Beach and San Clemente State Beach, the total acreage of the parks is around 2,100. San Onofre is the fifth most popular state park in California, with annual attendance topping 2 million. According to the Foundation, San Onofre’s surf beach is the most popular surfing beach in the United States. San Onofre State Beach was created by Presidential Decree in 1971 and is leased from the Department of the Navy. San Clemente State Beach was acquired in 1933 and was home to a California Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in the Great Depression. The CCC members built the campground and also developed the state park at Doheny in Dana Point.

Kramer said the parks system, which is under huge pressure because of ongoing statewide budget cuts, has been working aggressively to find local community foundations to help ensure the parks are safe.

“In the future, state parks will not continue to be maintained without these types of partnerships,” said Kramer. “So we put a lot of effort into nurturing them, developing them, getting the best and brightest as our formal partners. I’m very proud of the San Onofre Foundation.”

Delanty’s painting will serve as the Foundation’s logo and vision statement. The former head of the art program at San Clemente High School is an avid runner and has been running through or around the San Onofre Park area since 1974. With a solid working knowledge of the area, he began the project in late February and completed it just weeks ago. He originally planned on completing the painting in his studio after doing some sketches, but once he sat up on Pocket Mouse Hill and began his work, he realized he needed to be on location to properly capture the essence of the views.

“I was trying to imagine what it would look like in its pristine state, and as a result of that the painting has had a tremendously emotional effect on me, especially since I’ve been out there running all over it and appreciate it even more today because it still has that pristine quality and it could be lost,” he said. “So the painting was really about kind of a balance between what’s there now and what was there and the need to protect it as much as we can.”

Delanty also was influenced by a chance meeting that February day atop Pocket Mouse Hill with Rebecca Robles, a local native American whose ancestors once inhabited the San Mateo Valley area. Delanty said her influence on the painting is significant.

“What Rebecca added to the painting was her intimacy with the valley, the fact that her ancestors actually lived there and she knew something about it personally,” said Delanty. “Her family was intimately connected with the land. She talked to me about how the native American Pahne village actually moved around in the valley. She pointed out some areas where the Pahne villages were. She told me about the water in the valley, how much the native Americans were able to fish there and get substanance form that valley.

“After she left, I was blown away. She came there right when I was doing the painting. She’s really the reason for the hawk in the painting. I wanted to paint in something that was not man, something that has a spirit of life in that valley, and I wanted to do it through something that was not man made. So, really the painting is about the hawk’s eye view of San Mateo Valley and Trestles.”

Soaring over the valley in Delanty’s painting is a Red-Tailed Hawk. In the foreground are trails leading down from the top of Pocket Mouse Hill…in the distance is the surf at Lowers and Upper Trestles. Long helped Delanty make sure the wave patterns were appropriate. Native fauna and trees frame the artwork.

The painting not only serves as a reminder of what the Foundation will be working for, but also a peek back into time. For the members of the Foundation—Bob Mignogna (president), Jim Kempton (secretary), Greg Boyer (treasurer), Barry Berg (director), Steve Long (senior advisor), Susan Goggins (interim executive director/project manager) and Rich Haydon, the cooperating association liason with California State Parks and also the Park Superintendent for San Clemente, San Onofre and Doheny State Beaches—it also will provide the basis for the logo. The group will utilize the Historic Cottage at San Clemente State Park as its main location, and will launch volunteer and docent programs through state parks. Already the Foundation has landed grants from Surfrider Foundation and the Marisla Foundation, and plans fundraisers and awareness drives in the future.

“It is our goal to provide outreach to all stakeholders in the park,” said Kempton, a long-time San Clemente resident. “Not just surfers, but hikers, bikers, environmentalists, campers and runners, get all of them involved.”

Soon the Foundation hopes to provide video tours of the entire park, along with educational tours and interpretive exhibits and displays. Ultimately, according to the foundation’s mission document, the goal would be in creating “The Great Coastal Park.”

“The parks of San Onofre and San Clemente have national and worldwide significance,” the Foundation’s statement reads, “and threats to their integrity and existence shall be defended through a unity of rational, contemporary, intellectual discourse.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the San Onofre Foundation can visit www.sanofoundation.org.

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