Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar (left) talks to State Park Rangers at the newly named Pinnacles National Park Monday. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)
PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK — With the majestic towering rock mountains of Pinnacles National Park as a backdrop under azure skies, the Pinnacles National Monument was officially redesignated as a national park Monday.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel), California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird and a host of other officials joined a crowd of more 300 for an outdoor ceremony where a new national park sign was unveiled.
“Often referred to as the missing novel in our national park’s library,” Farr said, “this treasure will finally take its rightful place on the shelf next to Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and all of our other wonderful parks. Today is a great day not just for California but for all Americans, who will want to now come visit this geological and ecological wonder.”
On Jan. 10, President Barack Obama signed Farr’s bill, H.R. 3641, to create Pinnacles National Park.
It becomes the 59th national park and the first on California’s Central Coast’s tri-county area. With its creation, California is now home to nine national parks, more than any other state. The other parks are Channel Islands, Yosemite, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Redwood and Sequoia.
The park draws its name from the volcanic spires that were formed by the eruption of the Neenach Volcano more than 23 million years ago. Established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the 26,000-acre Pinnacles National Monument is the 11th oldest national monument in the United States.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo said he was proud of Obama's decision to sign the bill.
“It was an honor to attend today’s dedication ceremony naming the Pinnacles National Monument as our nation’s 59th national park,” Alejo said. “I love being a Monterey Bay native and am so proud that the Pinnacles has joined the ranks of our other beautiful national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Our region is the most beautiful, and naming the Pinnacles as a national park will put our location on the map as a tourist attraction.”
The Pinnacles system is home to 149 species of birds, 49 mammals, 22 reptiles, six amphibians, 68 butterflies, 36 dragonflies and damselflies, nearly 400 bees and many thousands of other invertebrates.
“This is going to be a big economical boost for this community,” Salazar said. “Now you have a place that used to be a national monument and now becomes one of the iconic places in the United States. Now the Pinnacles join the major leagues of the national heritage sites. This is a celebration of diversity, to be able to include tribal stories and to learn from these stories about this area.”
Val Lopez of the Mutsun tribe said, “This is a great day for all of us. We have a fantastic working relationship with the state park. To us, the condor is a sacred bird. Birds carry our messages to the creator.”
More than 30 endangered California condors reside in the cliffs of the Pinnacles. Since 2003, the Park Service has been involved in the California Condor Recovery Program to re-establish California condors to the area.
Native Americans have inhabited California for more than 10,000 years. Anthropologists believe Pinnacles was intermittently occupied by groups of Native Americans. Evidence in the form of arrowheads and bedrock mortars have been discovered within the park.
Last year Pinnacles hosted more than 343,000 visitors. Each year, visitors spent about $4.8 million and support 48 jobs in the local economy.
Pinnacles National Park is a day-use park, with occasional full-moon hikes and dark-sky astronomical observations led by ranger-interpreters.
The National Park System is more than 84 million acres in size and contains 398 natural, cultural and historic landscapes.
As people were celebrating Pinnacles' new status, others were worried that the designation will bring hordes of tourists, encourage development in the surrounding area and end the solitude aficionados have come to expect.
"Anything that gets popular gets ruined," said Jeff Freedman of Aptos. Freedman said he has been going to the park with his wife for the past four decades, a trip he takes largely for the chance to get away from the bustle of urban areas.
"We have been going there for 40 years, and it's really important for Jenny and me to be far away from everybody," he said. "Now that they have named it a national park, we think it's going to be a sideshow."
Freedman added that the wildlife easily visible to visitors will be driven away or go into hiding.
"Pinnacles will change from a primitive, wonderful area," he said. "It's deplorable."
Soledad Mayor Fred Ledesma took an opposite stance.
“This is a great opportunity for people to come and learn about our area, enjoy the beauty, stay in the area and boost our economy.”
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