Though gates are closed, the California State Parks in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties are still open to visitors … just not in person. The State Parks are streaming educational programs for K-12 students and general audiences during the shelter-in-place order.
The live sessions take place on the Facebook pages of each respective park. Santa Cruz County has a healthy dose of programs, including Natural Bridges State Beach, Seacliff State Beach and Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park. Each video is uploaded onto Facebook afterward, so those who want to see the tour don’t miss out if they can’t make it to the livestream. The department releases the schedule of streams each Monday.
Joseph Rogers, a State Parks interpreter at Pigeon Point Light Station, recognizes that the parks remain an attraction for lots of people and there is value in connecting with an audience even with parks closed.
“We want to provide as many opportunities as possible since people are sheltering in place,” Rogers said. “We want to provide them the opportunity to continue to experience these parks they love so much and that have such a special place in their heart — just from the comfort and safety of their own home.”
Last week, Rogers read passages from the book “Hello Lighthouse,” by Sophie Blackall, while posed next to Pigeon Point’s
famous Fresnel lens. After that, he gave a full tour of Pigeon Point, one of the tallest lighthouses on the West Coast, for more than 30 people watching live. The video on the park’s Facebook page
has been viewed nearly 500 times.
This is a transitional period for Rogers and the other State Parks interpreters. They’re used to dealing with lots of human interaction on these tours, and it takes some adjustment going from leading large groups to answering questions posted in the online chat.
“It’s definitely a change going from an in-person interpretation where you have a set group of people you can interact with, to a virtual program where you don’t see the people,” Rogers said.
Though current events have changed the methods, the goals and messages of the State Parks’ tours and educational programs remain very much the same. While it’s hard to replicate the learning experience of visiting a state park in person, the interpreters are doing their best to bring the education to students’ screens.
“We want to provide an opportunity for a lot of these kids who are essentially stuck at home to continue to develop and learn,” Rogers said.