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President’s Message – July 2013

President’s Message

Promises Kept

Cutting Cake at the Park's 50th Anniversary Celebration

Cutting Cake at the Park’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

In our December 2012 Newsletter, we promised another significant year of accomplishments for the Advocates and the Forest of Nisene Marks. We’re halfway through the year and we would like to humbly suggest that (with your help and support), we are following through on our promises:

Giant Revealed

The clean-up and repairs from the December 23, 2012 storm which took out a huge old fir tree at the Van Eck Memorial Grove has been completed. It’s always a loss to lose a majestic old tree, but in this instance, there was a indeed a silver lining in this storm cloud. The old fir substantially concealed a beautiful old redwood giant which was revealed for all of us to see and admire. It was a hidden treasure. There’s even a rumor that it’s visible from Rancho Del Mar Shopping center. Keep your eyes open, and please come check it out, if you haven’t already. She’s a beauty!

Big Buzz in the “Beehive”

Have you ever noticed that there is a lot of activity in the Park between the Kiosk parking lot and the steel bridge? This area has been accurately nicknamed “The Beehive” by Bill Wolcott, the Supervising State Park Ranger for Nisene Marks. For better or for worse, this is where in-park residents, vehicles, hikers, bikers, equestrians, runners, walkers, dog walkers, strollers, families, in-laws and outlaws all come together to create quite a buzz. In the interest of keeping that buzz as harmonious as possible, State Parks with the help of the Advocates completed an extensive re-work and improvements to the Aptos Rancho trail and the lower network of trails. The intent is to get as many people as possible off the fire road and enjoying the beautiful redwood, fern and creek lined trails. Part of this work was also the new ADA trail…more on that later.

We re-routed, repaired, widened, and in places, raised the trail. We fixed drainage issues and decommissioned other trails. We built footpaths, retainers, and bridges. Diane Porter Cooley generously donated the redwood materials for the bridge on the newly-restored Split Stuff trail. Diane has been an incredible supporter of the Advocates and the Park for her entire life. As a member of the pioneering Porter family, Diane’s family history is intertwined with the history of the Park.

Friends with “Friends”

Building alliances, partnering, networking, making friendships…whatever you want to call it, these relationships are critical in life, business and non-profit organizations. This year, the Advocates are extremely proud and grateful for our on-going and growing collaborative relationship with Friends of Santa Cruz County State Parks. Maureen Thrash, Advocates’ Director of Operations, is our liaison to the Friends. Last year we helped Friends put on their 50th Anniversary celebration. This year we helped Friends with their big Earth Day (April 2013) clean-up in the Park. Over 100 volunteers came out to help. This year, “Friends” has also organized a subcommittee solely dedicated to Nisene Marks. Maureen and our President, Geoff Alexander, have been serving on that committee. We now have two great organizations helping to improve and take care of The Forest of Nisene Marks. That’s nise!

50th Anniversary Celebration

See Videos of Park’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

Speaking of working together, “Friends” worked closely with us to put on our 50th Anniversary Celebration of the founding of The Forest of Nisene Marks, this Spring on May 19th. And a wonderful celebration it was! Where do we begin? There were so many special moments…

With much planning, hard work, and anticipation, the morning of May 19th broke bright and beautiful for our “birthday party for the Park”:

ADA Trail Ribbon Cutting

Gerry Waggoner Cutting Ribbon at Park's 50th Anniversary Celebration

Gerry Waggoner Cutting Ribbon at Park’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

This was a project that had been in the planning by Parks and the Advocates since spring of 2003. The original goal was to build an ADA or handicapped accessible trail from the Emmett Reed Picnic Area across Aptos Creek to Marcel’s Forest. When that project proved to be too complicated and expensive to build, State Parks decided to build the trail to the Overlook, which is a beautiful new deck and picnic area at a scenic overlook of the Aptos Creek Gorge. Through perseverance and hard work, our collective mission was accomplished. The trail was appropriately named the Waggoner Overlook Trail Trail in honor of Gerry Waggoner. Gerry not only had the initial vision for this trail, but was a strong influence in the early formation and direction of the Advocates. Gerry spoke at the event and when the ribbon was cut, it was Gerry who wielded the big scissors. That was a very special moment, and there were many more to follow.

Advocates Board members Geoff Alexander and Dave Hofkins were our incredible Masters of Ceremonies. They each spoke eloquently during the dedication of two ADA picnic benches donated by the Advocates in honor of Paul Ticknor and Karl Mertz. Paul was President of the Advocates for many years and a strong advocate for this trail. It was bittersweet that he passed away before seeing his dream realized. Karl Mertz (who turned 97 two days before the celebration) was honored for his years of contribution to the Park and the Advocates. Karl wrote us, “That was the best damn birthday I’ve ever had, and I am honored to have been on the same bill as Gerry and gotten such a beautiful table for future visitors to enjoy!”

Of course, what would a celebration of Nisene be without the experience, insights and humor of the “history dude,” Sandy Lydon? Sandy demonstrated his unique ability to make history current, interesting and entertaining. Speaking of entertainment, not only did we have the Coastal Blend Quartet before the event, we also had John Hibble of the Aptos Chamber of Commerce lead us down the trail to the Overlook with the melodious sounds of his bagpipes.

At the Overlook, Advocate Dave Hofkins shared with us his personal connection to the Park through his family history. Zach Friend, our 2nd district Supervisor, honored us with a Proclamation from the County Board of Supervisors acknowledging the Advocates’ efforts on behalf of the Park and the creation of this trail. Also acknowledged by Proclamation was Gerry Waggoner and State Parks’ Bill Wolcott.

BBQ under the Redwoods

After all the pomp and circumstance at the Ribbon Cutting, the party moved up the fire road 1.6 miles to the Mary Easton Picnic area for a lumber jack demonstration, family entertainment, and a BBQ. Our Advocates Project Coordinators, Tanya Larson and Bob Thrash, put down their trail work tools for a day, put on their BBQ aprons, and put on one heck of a sausage and burger BBQ for everybody. Martinelli’s provided the apple juice, and our hungry and thirsty attendees provided the smiles and thank yous. Have you ever noticed how everything tastes so much better when you’re out in the Forest?

Lumberjack Demo


The “Lumberjack Demo” was organized by Advocates Jeff Thomson and Ed Gilbert, and it was a huge success. The demo was put on by four local forest professionals, namely Edgar Orre of Cal-Fire, Lud McCrary of Big Creek Lumber, Steve Liebenberg and Jerry Stoodley, plus others associated with the local forest industry. The demonstrations by the foresters included spring-board notching, tree climbing, drag-line logging, shingle splitting, fence-rail splitting, cross-cut log bucking, a rattle-snake exhibition, old-time story telling and the exhibition of various items of old-time logging equipment and photos.

Interactive activities, involving interested attendees, included spring-board climbing, targeted ax throwing, a logging jargon and jobs lingo test of knowledge, and freshly branded NM-50 redwood cookies for souvenirs.

This was a wonderful event and it truly was an example of living history. Towards the end of the event, Supervising Park Ranger Bill Wolcott surprised all of us (especially Ed) by acknowledging Advocates Board Member Ed Gilbert (Redwood-Ed) with a special award for his “over 20 years of volunteer service” to State Parks. Ed was truly humbled, and appreciative. It was just another special moment on a day of special moments. Congratulations Ed! We are proud to serve beside and with you!

Kids in the Forest


Advocates Board members Allison Livingston and Elisa Webb were in charge of keeping the kids entertained. That’s not always an easy job, but they sure came through. They had a face painter, a magician and cake. There were a lot of kids (of all ages) with paint and smiles plastered all over their faces. The face painter was Allison of Glitterfish Face Painting. She did a beautiful job. Dave Hofkins’ brother, Doug Hofkins aka “The Surfing Magician” wowed us with his sleight-of-hand magic and kept us laughing at the same time. There were squeals of delight and belly laughs emanating from the Kids Korner of Mary Easton. That was special.

Celebration Cake by Heather's Bakery

Celebration Cake by Heather’s Bakery

And of course, what kind of a birthday party would it be without birthday cake? Heather’s Pastries donated a beautiful and delicious cake for the occasion. Thank you Heather! It really wasn’t magic, but the cake really did disappear right in front of our eyes!

It Takes a Village—and a Bit of Theater!

If it takes a village to raise a child, it truly took a village to put on this celebration. Many thanks go out to everybody who helped—names too numerous to mention. You know who you are….and thank you, thank you, thank you. Needless to say this celebration would not have happened without you. 50thCel-MagicianKids-200x159

I do want to take a moment to extend a special shout-out to Maureen Thrash who is our Advocates Director of Operations. She was also the Event Planner Extraordinaire for this Celebration. Maureen put in countless hours of hard work, talent, blood, sweat and tears to make sure every aspect of our event would be thoughtful, successful, fun, and pretty. She truly created “theater in the forest.” The rest of us played our parts. Brava, Maureen…Brava!!!

And Finally…in Closing!

As a non-profit and all-volunteer organization we rely completely on you for the funding and volunteer work necessary to continue the important work that we do in the Forest. With State Parks’ strained budget, they are only capable of maintaining the Park at the most basic level. They look to us and the community to make up the difference. So, please consider sending in a donation or volunteering on our trailwork days. Check out our website, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We look forward to carrying on the legacies of Karl Mertz, Paul Ticknor and Gerry Waggoner. Those are big shoes to fill, but with your help, we think we have a good start on the next 50 years.

Happy Summer everybody. See you in the Forest!

Geoff Alexander

President, Board of Directors

John Fuchs

Vice-President, Board of Directors

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