By Margie M. Palmer
The Anza-Borrego Foundation (ABF), the official nonprofit partner of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, is about to turn 50 — and it is inviting hikers, campers and nature enthusiasts of all stripes to help celebrate.
The Foundation was formed on April 1, 1967 at the request of the California State Parks Commission; in addition to raising funds help provide financial support for Park programs, the ABF continues to work on land acquisition and conservation to “make the park whole.”
ABF Executive Director Paige Rogowski notes that when the foundation was first commissioned, the park looked like Swiss cheese.
“The outer boundary of the park was created but there were a lot of privately owned parcels in the park. We’ve been acquiring those parcels over the years, and we’ve expanded the park out a little, but we still have about 10,000 acres of Swiss cheese inholding,” she said. “We’ll continue to work on that with willing sellers and we will certainly wait until the time is right for the owners to be ready to sell their properties over to the Foundation.”
In addition to working on land acquisition, in the years to come, the Foundation plans to expand parkland educational programs, increase staff and encourage positive, low impact-recreation for the visiting public.
“We will continue to fund projects with interpretative panels and staffing because the more that visitors can get questions answered about how they can enjoy the park without being destructive, the better the park will be in the end,” she said.
Ain’t no party like a State-Park party
As part of the golden anniversary celebration, the Foundation will be offering five weekends of free access to the three-mile Borrego Palm Canyon hiking trail. Free dates include Nov. 19–20, Dec. 17–18, Jan. 21–22, Feb. 11–12, March 25–26.
“When we sat down to decide how we wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary, we decided we wanted to give back to the people of Southern California and the people of San Diego in particular. We wanted to invite people to enjoy the park for free and to hopefully attract new audiences, and people who have not experienced the park before,” Rogowski said.
The Foundation and the Park are also inviting visitors to complete two five-hike challenges on some of the best-known peaks and trails in the region.
The family-friendly trails, which include Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail, The Slot, Pictograph Trail, Calcite Mine and Mountain Palm Springs Loop can be completed independently by hikers.
When visitors finish all five hikes, they will receive a signed certificate from the park and a commemorative 50th anniversary sticker at the State Park Store.
The five-hike challenge is just the start of their 50th anniversary celebration.
“We’ll have a big celebration on April 1, which will be 50 years to the day of the first meeting on April 1, 1967. We’re still finalizing the details of that but we want to invite people to come celebrate that in person,” she said.
Additional details will be available on the ABF website within the next two weeks.
“We are excited to look back and feel very proud of everything we’ve accomplished and looking forward to creating the vision of what we want [the park] to be in the next 50 years, 100 years or forever. We’re proud to keep these lands open, accessible and wild.”
For more information on the ABF 50th anniversary and/or the five-hike challenge, visit theabf.org.
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines for over a decade. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.