Santa Monica Mountains Visitor Center Opens to Public, First "Net Zero" Center in National Park Service
Contact: Kate Kuykendall, 805-370-2343
CALABASAS, Calif. - The National Park Service, along with its partners, dedicated a new interagency visitor center in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) on Saturday, June 9. Located at King Gillette Ranch in the historic heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, the interagency building unifies the local, state and federal park system for SMMNRA's 35 million annual visitors.
"Our goal is to make this complex network of parks more accessible and more understandable to the people of Southern California," said Lorenza Fong, Acting Superintendent of SMMNRA. "That's why we've moved to a more central location, why we're putting all the park partners in one building, and why we've installed touch screens with bilingual trip planners to help visitors find the perfect outdoor experience - no matter whose land it's on."
More than 800 guests attended the grand opening, which included presentations by elected officials and agency leaders, as well as a range of activities suitable for all ages. Rangers led tours focusing on the history of the surrounding property, the sustainable design of the facility and the interactive touch screens that help visitors plan their visit. Photos of the day can be found here.
Named for the former congressman who introduced legislation to create SMMNRA in 1978, the Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center is jointly managed by the National Park Service (NPS), California State Parks (CSP), Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA). It replaces an existing NPS visitor center located outside the park boundary in a poor visibility area.
Congressman Beilenson attended the grand opening and praised the project. "This new visitor center is exactly where it should be - where everyone involved in bringing this park into existence over all these many years had always hoped that it would be," he said.
One of the most stunning locales in the Santa Monica Mountains, 588-acre King Gillette Ranch offers a rare, unspoiled view of California's rich archaeological, cultural and historic resources. The ranch includes the 1928 mansion designed by Wallace Neff for razor magnate King C. Gillette. Located in the original horse stables, the new visitor center was re-purposed to achieve Platinum LEED certification and become the first "net zero" visitor center within the National Park Service. It produces all of its energy needs through a 94 kilowatt photovoltaic solar energy system. A website provides real-time data that tracks how much energy the photovoltaic panels generate.
The four partners jointly acquired the ranch for $35 million in 2005, with 11 separate funding sources and an almost unprecedented partnership between federal, state and local government, as well as private donors. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act provided $9.5 million in funding for the construction of the visitor center, in addition to financial and in-kind contributions from MRCA and SMMC.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. It comprises a seamless network of local, state, and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities. As one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, SMMNRA preserves the rich biological diversity of more than 450 animal species and 26 distinct plant communities.
California State Parks (CSP) is composed of 279 units on nearly 1.5 million acres of land. State Parks is responsible for nearly one-third of the coastline of California, with more than 3,000 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. The State Park System provides for nearly 15,000 individual campsites and 230 group camp sites in 115 parks across California. The State Park System contains 98 percent of the state's wilderness and 60 percent of its old growth coastal redwoods. Within the system, there are 50 State Historic Parks that encompass some of the state's most valuable historic and cultural resources. State Parks receives more than 65 million visitors yearly, making it the single largest visitor destination in the state and second only to the National Park system for the nation.
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) is a state agency dedicated to the preservation, restoration and creation of public parkland. The Conservancy's mission is to form an interlinking system of urban, rural, and river parks, open space, trails and wildlife habitat that are easily accessible to the public. Since it was created by the Legislature in 1980, the Conservancy has helped to preserve over 65,000 acres of urban and wilderness parkland throughout Southern California.
The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) is a local government agency established pursuant to the Joint Powers Act between the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Conejo Recreation and Park District and the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. The MRCA manages and provides planning, education and interpretation, construction, ranger and fire prevention services for parkland it owns or that is owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy or other agencies. The MRCA is one of the principal agencies working towards revitalization of the Los Angeles River and is the leader in providing nature parks in urban areas of Southern California.
Did You Know?
Piece by piece, a trail is forging its way along the "backbone" of the recreation area. California State Parks took the first step toward a 65-mile Backbone Trail in 1978. With 5 miles left to go, single track trails and fireroads will unite this patchwork of public parklands from east to west.