Improvements Underway at the State Park Visitor Center By Sally Theriault, State Park Interpreter II and Visitor Center Manager
No. 83 Fall 2015
Photo by Ernie Cowan
They may not be immediately apparent to the casual visitor, but new things have been happening at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP) Visitor Center.
Most exciting for me, as a stargazer, was the acquisition of a new computerized telescope last spring! It has been put to good use already this summer, providing great views of Jupiter and its moons, and Saturn with its ring system, for dozens of visitors who have braved high temperatures during monthly stargazing programs on the Visitor Center’s roof. Providing quality programs that convey the value of dark skies is a key component in our quest to become an official Dark Sky Park, recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) for our efforts and commitment to keep the skies over Anza-Borrego as dark as possible. Nighttime visitors and campers have probably noticed the orange glow of new exterior lights at the campground and Visitor Center restrooms and some of the walkways at the Visitor Center. We installed these “warmer” lights at the recommendation of IDA. Not only do they protect the darkness of the night sky for stargazers and our neighboring Palomar Observatory, but they also are designed to have a less disruptive effect on the physiology and rhythms of human beings as well as wildlife! A water-conserving irrigation system, which is important for the health and long-term sustainability of the plants in the Visitor Center garden, has replaced the crumbling drip system that for years would spring a new leak whenever a sharp-toothed rodent or mammal was thirsty! Charged with using less
water (like Californians everywhere) and cognizant of our precious aquifer here in the Borrego Valley, ABDSP — with help from ABF and California Garden Clubs — has invested in a plan and system suitable for an uncertain water future. Our goals are to keep the specimen plants in our landscape thriving with minimal water usage and to bring the garden back to health for the enjoyment and education of our visitors, while remaining excellent stewards of limited resources. And speaking of resources, some of the best resources we have available to us in this Park, as we strive to serve a million visitors every year, are our human resources. This past season, thanks to ABF donors, we were able to hire two seasonal support staff. We are lucky to have Abby Barker, Senior Park Aide, who has been with the Park for more than a decade, providing interpretation and serving park visitors in a myriad of ways as well as supporting our volunteers. This past year we were able to hire Regina Reiter as a seasonal Park Interpretive Specialist. Regina was able to offer many new educational programs to park visitors, and we look forward to her return this fall. In addition to our paid staff, we have the most amazing Park Volunteers. Volunteers do so many things here, from protecting prehistoric sites and continued on page 5