COAST CITIES — Despite falling victim to budget cuts, local state parks and beaches are receiving a helping hand from a group of passionate North County residents.
The newly formed Friends of Cardiff and Carlsbad State Beaches, or FCCSB, aims to provide where government funding no longer can. The nonprofit’s efforts help generate money to assist in outdoor education of San Diego County residents and maintain local parks and campgrounds.
“The money has to come from somewhere and the association is going to be the one bringing this in,” said FCCSB’s inaugural president Andy Gillum. “The parks need all our help.”
FCCSB is working alongside state park employees to ensure the parks have money for what they need most. Through fundraisers like Christmas in July and by cashing in recyclables left on the beach, the association provides funds for interpretive programs and park improvements that will benefit local residents for years to come.
“We don’t have a lot of money left,” said Brian Ketterer, north district superintendent for California State Parks. “We can’t do anything without volunteers.”
FCCSB’s generosity directly helps educational programs put on by Laura Ohman, an interpretive director and youth program coordinator with California State Parks. Although her grant-supported position also has two major sponsors, FCCSB’s contribution helps her
buy art supplies and other necessities that keep her programs running.
Ohman hosts beach cleanups and Junior Ranger programs where she said children can “learn about the environment while making a difference.” She speaks on topics like recycling, oceanography and weather during her after-school and campfire programs that draw residents from all over. Her programs alone educated more than 7,000 children from April through December of last year.
Ohman’s programs are also set to benefit from park improvement plans that the nonprofit has proposed for South Carlsbad State Beach. Blueprints have already been drafted for a special events area named Pelican Point at the park’s north end. The location will serve as an outdoor classroom and a venue for special events to generate extra income for the park area programs.
“You’d be hard-pressed to go anywhere and find a better backdrop than Pelican Point,” said Gillum, who noted the area as a beautiful venue for weddings and other events.
Although the blueprints are ready to go, the association is seeking local carpenters and other volunteers to help construct the stage in the near future. Board members encouraged residents to reach out to people they know who can help move the project along.
“Everyone knows somebody who knows somebody,” board member Dennis Kessler said.
At the association’s most recent meeting, current members spoke passionately about the nonprofit’s work to encourage others to volunteer for a position or join as an annual member.
“We really need people power and local businesses behind us,” board member Bill Mahoney said.
By meeting’s end, the association had five new board members and had registered its first annual contributors.
“We can (help) and have fun doing it,” Kessler said. “I want this park here for my grandkids.”
For more information, to become an association member or to volunteer, e-mail FriendsofCardiffandCarlsbad@yahoo.com.