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The Pinnacles National Monument is closer to becoming a National Park!

The Pinnacles National Monument, which is favorite spot for hikers and rock climbers and also a home to the endangered California condor near Soledad and Hollister, moved closer to becoming the state’s newest national park following approval in the  U.S. House of Representatives today!

U.S. Representative Sam Farr, D-Carmel, has been working hard to upgrade The Pinnacles to park status and has enthusiastic support from local elected officials and businesses who hope that a National Park will draw tourists, especially the foreign kind, who now drive past the rock formations on U.S. Highway 101.

“The Pinnacles National Monument is sort of a lost place,” said Farr, who has been working on changing it to a national park since he entered Congress in 1994.

Jerry Muenzer, a member of the San Benito County board of supervisors, based in Hollister, said Europeans often plan vacations around national parks, but many have no idea what a national monument is.

“People come down there and say, ‘Where’s the statue?’ ” thinking they will see something like the Washington Monument, Muenzer said.

Even worse, the park is divided into the Eastern Pinnacles and the Western Pinnacles, and there is no direct roadway between them. Hollister, with around 36,000 people, on the Eastern Pinnacles side, saw unemployment rise into the high teens when Silicon Valley‘s economy crashed in 2008 (and BEFORE!). The town could use lots of German and French tourists.

The west side of the park got a new visitor’s center from the 2009 fiscal stimulus. The main entrance lies on the east side, south of Hollister. The only way to cross the monument is by foot, and most of the area, 16,000 acres, is designated wilderness, which allows no roads, motorized vehicles or permanent structures.

Americans (at least those who have watched “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” know PRECISELY what a “National Monument”is – the result of a legal loophole in the Antiquities Act that allowed a President to preserve a natural area without the permission of Congress.

President Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt, himself, designated The Pinnacles as a National Monument in 1908. The area contains volcanic rock formations and talus caves (like Bear Gulch Cave, below) and sits on the San Andreas Fault, at the collision of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates.

The park designation got an endorsement from filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, who created the PBS documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

“While changing an area’s designation from ‘monument’ to ‘park’ does not necessarily change its crucial attributes, it nonetheless alters its place in the American imagination,” the filmmakers said in a letter. “A Pinnacles National Park, simply by its new designation, would attract and demand greater attention to the remarkable treasures the monument has to offer.”

The uncontested passage of Farr’s bill in the House resulted from Farr’s work with a House Republican, Jeff Denham, from Merced, who has lived in Salinas. Farr is helping Denham to locate a new visitors center for Yosemite National Park on 18 acres in Mariposa.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) is sponsoring a companion Pinnacles bill in the Senate that faces little opposition because the status change will not cost any money.

However, DOZENS of public lands bills, along with The Pinnacles bill, are stuck “…in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by an unrelated partisan dispute over a proposal to allow Sealaska, an Alaska Native corporation, to swap land with the federal government.” If the dispute is not resolved before Congress adjourns at the end of the year, The Pinnacles bill would have to start the legislative process all over again.

I am glad that I am not in Congress. I do not have the tolerance for stupidity that I once had. 😉

-Bill at

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