I got the most wonderful Christmas present from the state of California. So did you. The Outdoors for All initiative in the 2021-22 budget awards about $500 million in grants for the sole purpose of creating 112 new and expanded parks statewide, particularly in local communities that desperately lack green space. The word “park-a-palooza” comes to mind. This initiative funds 20 park projects in L.A. County and seven in Orange County.
But wait, there’s more. Another $500 million will be spent to improve access and facilities at California State Parks. OK, that’s a lot to process. An unprecedented $1 billion in a single budget year to up our green-space game? Why?
There are several reasons. One in four Californians don’t have a park or open space within walking distance of their home (think about what that means in the COVID-19 era), and six in 10 Californians live in “park-poor” areas (L.A. is one of them) with less than 3 acres of green space nearby, according to the California Natural Resources Agency. We know the benefits, especially for children, of getting our vitamin N (nature), of planting trees to remove greenhouse gases from the air, and of the fitness opportunities that parks and green spaces offer people in and outside the city. This is a big step toward expanding and improving park access.
More good news: The rugged and spectacular Lost Coast area of Northern California may be gaining ground. Last week, the conservation group Save the Redwoods League said it planned to spend nearly $37 million for a scenic 5-mile stretch of the coastline to protect it from logging and eventually open the area to the public. That’s good news for hikers and backpackers who happily hoof it to explore the remote shoreline. More information here.
3 things to do this week
The trail to Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains.
1. Take a hike to Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. Winter really is the best time to hike at SoCal’s lower elevations. Cool temperatures mean you don’t need to carry a gallon of water for a day hike to Sandstone Peak, 3,114 feet in elevation. The Mishe Mokwa Trail (that name comes from “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, though I don’t know how it landed here) is a superb cool-weather route. The trail winds through stretches of scrub oak and chaparral to Split Rock (yep, you can walk through) and red-rock outcroppings like Balanced Rock. You may feel as if you’ve been transported to the Southwest. You can do this as an out-and-back (3.5 miles) or a longer loop (6 miles) depending on how fit you feel. The steepness/elevation gain is moderate, about 1,650 feet for the longer route. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the hike; also consider using a trail app and/or map to find your way. Pro tip for experienced hikers: Justin Rimon, who produces the Just Trek podcast, recommends going to the peak at sunset to watch light bounce off nearby peaks, or when the full moon rises (the next one is Dec. 18). And, yes, you’ll need to pack a head lamp to find your …….