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Partner: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Established: 1967

Mission: The mission of Anza-Borrego Foundation is to protect and preserve the natural landscapes, wildlife habitat, and cultural heritage of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Summary: Anza-Borrego Foundation supports Anza-Borrego Desert State Park by offering adult & youth education, adding acreage to the park through its land acquisition program, supporting research including offering grants, and by raising funds to supplement the park’s budget. 

How You Can Help:

Anza-Borrego Foundation is the only non-governmental partner association that makes direct contributions to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. In early March 2017, I was able to chat with Ashley Kvitek, Education Outreach Coordinator, after completing the 5 Hikes for 50 Years challenge to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Foundation. 

Employees: Seven, including those working part-time.

Members: Between 2,000 – 3,000, hailing from all over the world.

What does ABF do to support Anza-Borrego Desert State Park? Anza-Borrego Foundation supports the park in an amazing variety of ways.

Land acquisition: the Foundation has bought and added approximately 50,000 acres to the park.

Outreach: including Hikes & Hops, Bikes & Brews, and Mike’s Hikes

Education & Research: including the Anza-Borrego In Focus program, which offers field trips with research opportunities (in partnership with the UCI Research Center); Camp Borrego, a 3-day / 2-night desert education program for 5th graders in San Diego & Imperial Counties; interpretation activities with state park naturalists in birdwatching, geology, botany, and history

Employment: Proceeds from sales at the Visitor Center and State Park stores are used to hire interpreters for the park.

Volunteer Societies: archaeology, paleontology, botany, naturalist, visitor center

Why is Anza-Borrego Desert State Park a special place? ABDSP is home to multiple environments and climates, including around a half dozen state wilderness areas. Access to the park is virtually unlimited, and generally without cost (the only State Park in California wherein this is the case). This lends a sense of freedom to the curious, and offers the challenge and excitement of exploring off the beaten path.

Why does the park merit conservation? From an economy perspective, the village of Borrego Springs is essentially dependent upon park visitation and traffic.

The park itself provides a protected space for bighorn sheep, of which there were only around 200 left 15-20 years ago. Now there are around 1,000. The biodiversity within the boundaries of the park is substantial, and thus provides an opportunity for multiple modes of exploration and recreation in addition to research and study in multiple areas. For example, there are more than 10,000 documented archaeological sites within the park, and those are just the ones that have been discovered so far. And, because the park was a savannah grassland during the Pleistocene era, there are paleontological resources and fossil remains within the park that are unique and outstanding: even mastodons and zebras have left their tracks in Anza-Borrego!

What challenges are there to the health and future of the park? The primary challenge is related to visitation. Because there are no entry kiosks or fees for entry, the only place within the park where people are counted is at the main visitor center. However, due to the enormous size of the park, many never make it there, and are thus not counted in visitation numbers. Because these numbers are directly related to the amount of funds allocated to a park, Anza-Borrego receives much less funding proportionally than smaller parks with official entry kiosks and accurate visitation counts. Funding shortages result in multiple issues. There is a maintenance backlog, and despite being the largest state park within the lower 48 states (every other state park in California combined could fit within the boundaries of Anza-Borrego), there are only seven peace officers for the entire park.

Thanks to Ashley for taking the time to talk about the park, and to the Anza-Borrego Foundation for all of its great works in supporting the health and posterity of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park!