A Partnership for Environmental Education
Photography:
  • Barb Karlin

A Partnership for Environmental Education

Located south of San Francisco on the renowned San Mateo coast, Año Nuevo State Park is home to the world’s second-largest mainland breeding colony of northern elephant seals. A California Natural Preserve, the park supports many other animals, including sea otters, California sea lions, cormorants, and terns, and contains an intact intertidal ecosystem, as well as habitat for numerous native plants. With more than 200,000 visitors annually, including 25,000 schoolchildren, Año Nuevo is among California’s most popular state parks.

Former California Coastal Commissioner Steve Blank and his wife, Alison Elliott, were neighbors and supporters of Año Nuevo, but they wanted to enhance the park in a strategic way. RLF connected them with park leadership, and together these partners elected to build a marine education center at Año Nuevo to benefit generations of Californians. On behalf of Blank and Elliott, California State Parks (CSP), and the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF), RLF led negotiations aimed at raising $3 million to build the center. We crafted and joined in a formal agreement with CSP and CSPF that secured Blank and Elliott’s vision, as well as their keystone donation to the center’s construction, which also catalyzed significant public agency investment, ensuring the project’s completion.

The Año Nuevo Marine Education Center—the first educational and training facility of its kind in the region—opened in June 2008. It is housed within three nationally recognized historic structures that were once part of the Steele Dairy Ranch, built in the 1860s on a site within the park. The new center provides space for interpretive exhibits and presentations, as well as greatly expanded educational facilities to accommodate the reserve’s growing popularity. It stands as an example of the potential impact of creative, results-oriented philanthropy and thoughtfully crafted public-private partnerships.

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