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Pinnacles National Monument: California's new National Park?

August 5, 2010 |  5:14 pm

Pinnacle landscape
Pinnacles National Monument, a 26,000-acre swath of spectacular volcanic rock formations outside Soledad, Calif., would be elevated to a National Park under legislation introduced Thursday by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)

Pinnacles is a nesting place for the endangered California condor, North America's largest soaring bird, with wingspans up to 10 feet. And it is a global destination for naturalists and outdoor adventurers attracted by the park's scenic views and unique rock-climbing landscapes. Making Pinnacles a National Park, Boxer said, would "draw even more visitors to this spectacular piece of California's natural and cultural heritage."

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel), who introduced companion legislation in the House, called the area "packed with historical significance," adding that "its geological distinctiveness is second to none." A park designation, he said "would be a major boon to an economically starved area, a huge benefit for the state's Central Coast. Pinnacles is a hidden gem."

Pinnaclemap Pinnacles is a culturally significant area for several Native American tribes, and it served as a backdrop for John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and "East of Eden." The monument was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, and has expanded since.

In a recent travel piece on Pinnacle's condors for the Los Angeles Times, Tom Bentley described the monument as "an otherworldly place of jutting rock spires and twisted towers that looks as though it was wrenched from dinosaur times. 'Wrenched' is fitting: The park's craggy upthrusts are the partial remains of an ancient volcano. It's a landscape in which a pterodactyl might choose to make its home, and  thus a bird almost as rare (and with an impressive 10-foot wingspan) would feel cozy here too."

Supporters of Boxer and Farr's bills include the California Wild Heritage Campaign, the California Wilderness Project and the Wilderness Society.

-- Margot Roosevelt

Photo: Bear Gulch Reservoir at Pinnacles National Monument. Credit: Anna Marie Dos Remedios/ San Jose Mercury News. 

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