A Cotati man's campaign to save California state parks paid its first dividend Friday with the announcement that a $19,000 donation will keep Jug Handle Reserve on the Mendocino Coast open for a year.
"It's great news," said Alden Olmsted, whose spare-change fundraising drive contributed $9,500 for the reserve established by his naturalist father, the late John D. Olmsted.
The California State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization that also is campaigning to keep parks open, put up another $9,500.
Olmsted said the donations will allow maintenance of basic services, such as restroom and trail upkeep and trash removal, at Jug Handle Reserve, located halfway between the towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg.
Jug Handle was one of 70 state parks targeted for closure by July 1 in a $22 million state budget-cutting move. It is now among the 11 parks that have been saved by donations or other arrangements, state parks spokesman Roy Stearns said.
Olmsted last year placed about 60 collection buckets at businesses, including coffee shops, banks and grocery stores, primarily in Sonoma, Marin and Nevada counties.
He also put up a website at www.olmstedparkfund.org and said he received nearly 1,000 letters with donations.
"This is proof that you can fight City Hall," said Olmsted, 40, a Sonoma Valley High graduate who works as a filmmaker and photographer.
Olmsted recalled that his father, who died a year ago, thwarted development of a motel on Jug Handle Bluff in 1972, leading to creation of the state reserve.
"This is an example of how a passionate individual can make a difference," state parks Director Ruth Coleman said.
Thanking Olmsted and the foundation for their efforts, Coleman said she hopes that "others follow his lead."
Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the 130,000-member parks foundation, said parks like Jug Handle are "a source of inspiration" for local residents and tourist attractions that support the local economy.
With the closure list now down to 59 parks statewide, Stearns noted that efforts are under way to keep 23 more parks open, including Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park near Kenwood, Austin Creek State Park in Guerneville, Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma Valley, the Petaluma Adobe and parts of Sonoma Coast State Beach.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.