In California, the Yosemite bill acted more as a precedent for delegation. Rather than imitate the nation by initiating a state park system, the state lent its authority to local parks. Mention has already been made of the 1870 act that established Golden Gate Park. Two years later, as the federal government created a national park, California made another municipal one, this time for San Jose - Alum Rock Park in Penitencia Canyon. In 1893, in an early instance of coastal protection, the state legislature intervened in a dispute between the citizens of Pescadero and a local landowner over access to Pebble Beach, setting aside beach lands from Pescadero Creek to Bean Hollow Lagoon for public use.
Local parks and national parks - small in area and small in number - that was the picture as the nineteenth century drew to a close. That picture started to change with the growth of an organized conservation movement, or rather, movements. Early preservation efforts were be local causes, galvanized by local threats. The most prominent once again involved Yosemite, and its most important spokesman was John Muir. In 1890 his struggle for broader protection of the region resulted in the establishment of Yosemite National Park surrounding the existing state park, as well as Sequoia and General Grant National Parks to the south. (General Grant was expanded and renamed Kings Canyon National Park in 1940.) The dual federal-state control of Yosemite finally ended in 1906, when the state receded the valley and the Mariposa Grove to the nation and they were absorbed into the national park. As for Muir, two years after his success in Yosemite he founded the Sierra Club, which went on to embrace regional and even national causes. One of the former, a futile attempt from 1907 to 1913 to prevent San Francisco from damming Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley for drinking water, showed that the success of a conservation drive could by no means be taken for granted, even within the boundaries of a supposedly protected national park.
Conservation Goes Mainstream
More typical of the early conservation movement were
three smaller scale attempts to save the Bay Area's
remaining old-growth redwoods. Like Muir's crusade, Andrew
P. Hill's effort in the Santa Cruz Mountains spawned an
organization and paid off in a park. The organization was
the Sempervirens Club (today's Sempervirens Fund), and the
park California Redwood State Park (now Big Basin),
established in 1902 as California's second (and oldest
existing) state park. Unlike Muir's group, the Sempervirens
Fund's activities have remained local. The efforts of Col.
James B. Armstrong and the William Kent family were
somewhat different. Possessed of more resources than hill,
they simply bought the forest lands they wanted to
preserve. Armstrong's interest lay in the 400 acres of big
trees north of Guerneville later known as the Armstrong
Grove. He intended to leave the grove to the state, but as
no state agency then existed to administer it, his gift
went unclaimed for a number of years after his death in
1900, its fate uncertain. Seventeen years later the grove
was finally purchased by Sonoma County for a county park.
It did not become a state park until 1934. Congressman
William Kent and his wife Elizabeth had better luck, or
perhaps better connections. In 1905 they bought 295 acres
of old-growth trees along Redwood Creek in the north bay,
which they afterwards donated to the federal government.
When Theodore Roosevelt declared the stand a national
monument in 1908 he proposed naming it after Kent. The
congressman preferred to memorialize John Muir, and it
became Muir Woods National Monument.
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