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From ghost towns and lighthouses to expanses of fragile desert and those infamous redwoods, California’s 1.4-million-acre parks system boasts more than 280 miles of coastline, 625 miles of lake and river frontage, 15,000 campsites, and 3,000 miles of hike and bike trails...for now.

If you've watched the news lately, you know that times are tough in sunny CA. In the face of a budget deficit of $24 billion and counting, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently announced a no-holds-barred budget that would scrap some $70 million in parks funding through June 30, 2010, and even more down the road. As a result, the future of 200+ unique and irreplaceable sites, stories and experiences – nearly 80% of the entire system – is unclear.

Inside the Cooper Molera Adobe

Inside the Cooper Molera Adobe

Included on the extensive list is the Cooper Molera Adobe, a National Trust Historic Site in Monterey.

Fully restored in the 1980's, the Cooper Molera Adobe preserves life from the era when Monterey was part of Mexico to the beginnings of California statehood. This three-acre site includes a house built by several generations of the Cooper and Molera families, historic barns, vegetable and flower gardens, and an extensive museum store. The site is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and operated by California State Parks.

A deadline to adopt Governor Schwarzenegger's budget came and went last week without an inkling of resolution. If passed as is, the Cooper Molera Adobe – and 219 of its counterparts in the system – could be padlocked starting as soon as Labor Day, leaving only 59 units open to visitors. Some revenue-generating solutions (such as an additional fee on vehicle registrations) have been brought to the table as a means of supporting parks/sites that are not economically self sufficient without state dollars, but negotiations are ongoing and remain fierce.

I will be traveling to California later this month, and Cooper Molera is definitely at the top of my itinerary. Please stay tuned for a follow-up post on my visit there, and bookmark and the California State Parks Foundation for important news and advocacy updates as this story unfolds.

Max van Balgooy is the director of interpretation and education for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Historic Sites Department. Learn more about the National Trust's 29 historic sites across the country, and visit the National Trust Historic Sites Blog.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Brucemore in Iowa safe from flooding and offering a safe haven

Posted on: June 13th, 2008 by Max van Balgooy


BrucemoreThis morning we received an update from Jim Kern, Executive Director of Brucemore, a National Trust Historic Site in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Brucemore is soggy but open to the public as a safe haven and a place for quiet reflection for local residents overwhelmed by the massive flooding in their community.

The flood is the worst ever recorded in Cedar Rapids. The summer of 1993 was a landmark year for flooding in the city—the Cedar River was at 19.3 feet and they had 24 inches of rain in the month of June. This time the river is at 31.9 feet and they have had 27 inches of rain in the first 12 days of the month. And this follows the second worst winter on record. The result is unbelievably catastrophic damage.

Brucemore is the only cultural facility in the city that is untouched by the flooding. Jim reports that the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, the tallest building in the Czech village, has water up to its roofline. The African American Museum & Cultural Center across the river and the Science Station and IMAX theater are underwater. The historic Paramount Theater and Iowa Theater, both of which are downtown National Register buildings with working historic organs, are underwater. Collections in the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art have been moved to upper levels and appear to be safe, as are the Grant Wood Studio and the history museum.

Jim Kern has been in touch with the Iowa SHPO and he is calling his cultural partners throughout the city to offer help. The National Trust’s substantial experience with flooding in New Orleans and elsewhere will be very helpful in the coming weeks to help property owners understand their options (see the handout, “Saving Your Flood-Damaged Older and Historic Buildings“).

At this point, computer access is generally unavailable and mail delivery has been suspended. All of the city’s bridges except the interstate highway are underwater. Water use is restricted to 25 percent of normal use.

Updated: to provide a newer version of the flood-damaged buildings handout.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Historic Sites at a Crossroads

Posted on: May 15th, 2008 by Max van Balgooy


Forum Journal spring 2008The spring 2008 issue of Forum Journal is a special issue devoted to historic house museums, thanks to a generous grant from the 1772 Foundation. This special issue includes the findings and recommendations from the 2007 Forum on Historic Site Stewardship in the 21st Century at Kykuit (N.Y.) along with a half-dozen provocative essays on membership, heritage tourism, fund raising, stewardship, and attendance and financial trends by David Donath, John Durel, Marian A. Godfrey, Katherine Kane, Max A. van Balgooy, Jim Vaughan, Amy Webb, and David Young.

The essays are introduced by Jim Vaughan, Vice President of Historic Sites at NTHP, who not only provides a brief description of each essay but also lays out the findings and recommendations from the Kykuit symposium. You won't find complete consensus but you should be provoked by some of the ideas that were proposed (such as, calling them "historic house museums" limits our thinking, so let's use "historic sites"). Don't keep them to yourself—we invite you to share them here.

Forum members will receive their copies of this special thematic issue in the mail (look for the new full-color cover!). If you're not a member, you can find the introduction on and the entire issue is available for $8 through or by calling the National Trust for Historic Preservation at (202) 588-6053. Better yet, join National Trust Forum and you'll receive this issue and much more!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.