Nonprofit begins takeover of Jack London park

  • The new executive director of Jack London Park, Tjiska Van Wyk, in front of the House of Happy Walls..

Tjiska Van Wyk is blazing a new trail at Jack London State Historic Park, but don't expect any signs for Wal-Mart along the way.

"We don't want to turn it into a theme park, where everywhere you turn something is underwritten by a corporation," Van Wyk said. "We want to make sure it remains a wild park."

Van Wyk has been hired as the park's first-ever executive director under a new operating agreement with the state that spared the 1,400-acre site from closure this summer.

Van Wyk, whose first name is pronounced "Chiska," has had a long career in marketing and development for nonprofit organizations that include the San Francisco Zoological Society, Sierra Club, the American Red Cross and Earthjustice.

She said she is selling her home in San Rafael and moving to the Glen Ellen area.

"This is a dream come true to be part of saving a park," she said.

The Valley of the Moon Natural History Association and the California parks department reached an agreement this month for the association to take over operations at Jack London.

The transfer takes place Tuesday. Under the terms of the agreement, Jack London Park Partners will operate the site for five years while the state maintains ownership.

Neither Van Wyk or Elisa Stancil, vice-president of the history association, would say how much the association is paying Van Wyk.

The operating agreement was the first of its kind under a new law as the state negotiates with nonprofits, private concessionaires and other groups keep open many of the 70 state parks originally slated to shut July 1.

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