New "Net Zero" Visitor Center Opens in Santa Monica Mountains June 9

Photo of Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center

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News Release Date: May 24, 2012

Contact: Kate Kuykendall (NPS), 805-370-2343

Contact: Dash Stolarz (MRCA), 323-221-9944 x198

Contact: Roy Stearns (CA State Parks), 916-654-7358

New Visitor Center Fact Sheet

CALABASAS, Calif. - The National Park Service, along with its partners, will open a new 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. 

Named for the congressman who introduced legislation to create the SMMNRA in 1978, the Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center will be 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, along with other elected officials, will attend the grand opening event on June 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The public is invited to tour the facilities and take part in a variety of ranger-led activities suitable for all ages. 

"Through the common vision of this long-lasting relationship with our partners, we now have a one-stop shop for visitors," said SMMNRA Acting Superintendent Lorenza Fong. "Whether they're visiting local, state or federal parks and beaches, the experience should be seamless." 

"The opening of the visitor's center fulfills a 30-year effort by public agencies, elected officials, conservationists and community members to provide an educational and recreational gateway for millions of visitors," said Joseph T. Edmiston, FAICP, Executive Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. "We want to attract those who have yet to experience the astounding beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains." 

"The ability of this multi-agency facility to promote the history and the environment of the area to all visitors will be priceless," said Craig Sap, District Superintendent of the Angeles District of California State Parks. 

One of the most stunning locales in the Santa Monica Mountains, 588-acre King Gillette Ranch is located at the confluence of five major tributaries and offers a rare, unspoiled view of California's rich archaeological cultural and historic resources. Its broad meadows and low ridgelines serve as a wildlife corridor in the geographic center of the range. The ranch includes the 1928 mansion designed by Wallace Neff for razor magnate King C. Gillette. The visitor center is located in the original horse stables, re-purposed to achieve LEED Platinum 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. 

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. The MRCA manages the surrounding park, which includes hiking trails, beautiful grassy picnic areas, a pond and dormitory facilities for MRCA's overnight educational camps. 

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. The mountains are home to 20 endangered plant and animal species.

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.

Last updated: November 30, 2017

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