Mountain Parks Foundation & two State Parks

Alex Trudelle

February 21, 2019

The Mountain Parks Foundation supports two iconic California State Parks in Santa Cruz County;

Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Boulder Creek and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton. Established as a non-profit group in 1973, MPF is among the earliest California State Park Cooperating Associations. Since then they’ve worked to provide support in the form of funding, staffing, volunteer recruitment and management, retail vendorship and administration, and public relations, to name just one or two. A lean, green, park-supporting machine, MPF boasts only three permanent staff members on their website, including their executive director Brenda Holmes. Much of the foundation’s funding goes to support public interpretive programs put on by State Parks staff, such as hosting field trips for school kids, holding ranger-led campfires, and offering naturalist-guided family backpacking trips each summer.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Entrance to Henry Cowell | Photo by Matte Photography

The Mountain Parks Foundation is headquartered at Henry Cowell, where it maintains offices for its small staff and a significant volunteer team. To support interpretive programming for the visitors of the park, as well as its lesser-known Fall Creek Sub-unit (off Felton Empire Rd.), the foundation runs a store, located next to the main parking lot. There you can pick up souvenirs (the life-like banana slug refrigerator magnets are pretty awesome) or refreshments (I’d recommend Marianne’s Ice Cream Sandwiches) or find out about what’s going on in the park if you haven’t hit the Visitor Center yet.

For California’s oldest State Park, Big Basin, the Mountain Parks Foundation has some big plans.

They’re currently working on a project to renovate the outdated and relatively unknown Big Basin Nature Museum, located next to its park store in the main headquarters area. With a price tag of about $1.2 million, this will not only bring the museum’s exhibits up to date but will provide wireless internet access for park visitors, enabling them to get detailed information about park events and locations and to share their experiences on social media.

Ohlone Dancing Circle
Ohlone Dancing Circle | Photo by Mountain Parks Foundation

MPF is known for two major community events; both of which it holds annually at Henry Cowell.

First is Ohlone Day, a September mainstay for over 30 years. This event celebrates the history, traditions, craftsmanship, and spirit of the native peoples who made their homes in the lands we now call Santa Cruz, San Jose, San Francisco, Monterey, and Carmel. Led by some of their descendants, including prominent community leaders like Linda Yamane, this fun, family-friendly event showcases a culture that was nearly lost. Show up in time for the opening prayer, spoken in Rumsien Ohlone, before trying your hand at fire making or atl-atl throwing, then shop for local artisan crafts and watch the traditional Ohlone dancers perform. The other big event, the Lobster Feed, is held each October and is the foundation’s biggest regular fundraising event. A fun picnic that takes a New England culinary touchstone and enthusiastically transplants it among the California Redwoods, the Lobster Feed is a lively and charming way to support local parks with your dollar without sacrificing your tastebuds.

Lobster Feed
Lobster Feed | Photo by Mountain Parks Foundation

Visit online or in person to learn more.

To learn more about this admirable organization and how they help to improve the parks experience in the Santa Cruz Mountains, check out their website at or find them on Facebook.

Alex Trudelle
Alex Trudelle

Alex should know how to have fun in the Santa Cruz Mountains, after all he literally has a degree in it! A graduate of San Jose State with a BS in Recreation Management, Alex was raised in Boulder Creek and returns often to soak up the redwood shade. As an Eagle Scout he explored the mountains for free as a kid, but since then he's been making a living at it as staff for organizations like California State Parks and the YMCA.

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