Friends of SC State Parks Honored

The Dewitt Award for Partnership, bestowed by the director of California State Parks, honors commitment "above and beyond the call of duty" in the accomplishment of the department's mission.

by Traci Hukill

May 23, 2014—If you're an organization that exists to support the public work of a state agency, then an award for partnership from selfsame agency really kind of rings your bell. It has for Bonny Hawley, executive director of Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks.

On May 14, Hawley accepted on behalf of Friends the Dewitt Award for Partnership, presented by Parks Director Anthony Jackson. One of a handful of such annual awards (most of them go to parks staff for things like innovation or inspiration), the Dewitt honors private individuals or organizations whose commitment to state parks goes "above and beyond the call of duty over a substantial period of time." In other words, friends on the outside who go the distance.

"It's a really big deal," says Hawley, adding that the award is for all the volunteers and staffers of both Friends and the local state parks district. "It's very competitive, and it feels like a recognition of the stellar partnership we've had with State Parks that's been going on for years."

The state parks department is of course in the midst of challenges: budget shortages, financial scandal and, most recently, the abrupt announcement that Parks Director Jackson, a retired Marine general, will leave in June. It's also reinventing itself in response to some of those challenges, and public-private partnerships—of which Friends is now part of an award-winning example—are being proposed as key to the fix. This is not lost on Hawley.

Read about Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks' unique partnership with the Santa Cruz District of State Parks
Read For State Parks, A Whole New Direction

"I think it's especially meaningful in the context of how Parks Forward has recognized partnerships as valuable to the future of State Parks," Hawley says, referring to the commission tasked with rethinking the parks department. "And the State Parks Commission has been doing work recently to recognize the power of partnerships." That includes a Commission meeting a few months ago in which the usual administrative issues were supplanted by a focus on partnerships for an entire day—two if you count the field trip to the Golden Gate Conservancy and Presidio Trust, two organizations partnered with National Parks Service.

But it can't all be glamor and posing with dignitaries. Back at home Friends has a lot going on. There's the Summer Series at the Mission Adobe, already underway, a June 21 benefit for Friends at Kitayama Brothers, the Sept. 20 Mole and Mariachis Festival and four days in autumn (Oct. 23-26) celebrating the 40th anniversary of the acquisition of the land that became Wilder Ranch State Park.

Meanwhile, there's the painting of the horse barn at Wilder Ranch, made possible by a $10,000 grant from the California State Parks Foundation. The patio at Mission Adobe is getting a facelift this summer, thanks to the combined efforts of State Parks, which drew up the plan; Friends, which got materials donated or secured at good prices; and the California Conservation Corps, which—as soon as its workers are back from fighting fires in distant locales—is set to begin the setting of stones and leveling of mortar.

And if you noticed that the fire road at Nisene Marks is less dusty than usual, thank Friends, Advocates for Forest of Nisene Marks and the Santa Cruz District of State Parks, which joined forces to treat the road with an eco-friendly substance that keeps the dust down. Ain't partnerships great?