Aided by a $38,000 state grant, a Sonoma County nonprofit aims to reopen two parking areas at Bodega Head and boost public use of little-known Campbell Cove at the mouth of Bodega Harbor.

Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods was among the 52 organizations that received a total of more than $1.3 million in grants from the Coastal Conservancy, the state agency announced last week.

Michele Luna, executive director of the Stewards, said the funds would be used to enhance use of the entire Sonoma Coast State Park, with a focus on Campbell Cove, a frequent destination for school groups.

Stewards, which took over operation of Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Guerneville last year, now plans to reopen the east parking lot on Bodega Head and a paved lot at Campbell Cove.

The two parking lots have been closed for about two years, leaving open only the west lot on Bodega Head.

The cove, with a sandy beach on the tranquil harbor, is a "nice, safe location" for school field trips, Luna said.

When students from Madrone Elementary in Rincon Valley visited last year during a visit by tall sailing ships, two students in wheelchairs were able to reach the beach, she said.

Stewards plans to partner with the nearby Bodega Marine Laboratory to bring students to the cove and the research facility operated by UC Davis.

A separate $25,000 grant from the Dean Witter Foundation will pay for a mobile marine education visitor center, mounted on a 32-foot-long trailer, that would visit Campbell Cove, Luna said.

The center will offer displays and interactive features, along with sales of educational materials to help fund its operation.

Stewards hopes to open the center next spring, but the timing is uncertain because it requires approval of various permits, Luna said.

The Coastal Conservancy grant also will be used to boost visitation to the 17-mile-long coastal state park, including collaboration with lodging facilities on the coast.

Campbell Cove is located next to the notorious Hole in the Head, the excavation left over from PG&E's abortive effort to build a nuclear power plant atop the San Andreas Fault in the 1960s.

The cove's other claim to fame is as a minor contender for the site of Sir Francis Drake's landing in 1579, officially recognized by the National Park Service as Drakes Bay in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

The Coastal Conservancy also gave $6,000 to the Sonoma Land Trust to increase opportunities for public use of the 127-acre Estero Americano Preserve on the border of Marin and Sonoma counties.

The land trust offers limited guided hikes and occasional group access to the estero property, but there is "strong unmet demand" for greater access, the conservancy said.

Sam Schuchat, the conservancy's executive officer, said the grants are intended to "help and encourage people to visit the coast so that it becomes a real part of their lives and is never taken for granted."

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.