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Jack London State Historic Park reopening, and waiving entry fees

Steven Frazier, right, and Heather MacKenzie of Fresno with Lisa Unterseher and Ann Magnuson of Santa Rosa pause before the walkway leading to Jack London's cottage during Green Friday at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, California on Friday, November 25, 2016. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

KEVIN FIXLER,

As part of the recovery effort from area wildfires, Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen will reopen today and waive entry fees for the public through the end of the year.

After a three-week hiatus due to the Nuns Fire, the park’s leadership opted to offer the 1,400-acre historic landscape as a haven to assist the community in its overall rehabilitation process. It joins nearby Quarryhill Botanical Garden in offering free admission through the rest of 2017.

“The restorative healing that nature provides is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced,” said Tjiska Van Wyk, the park’s executive director. “We’re one of the last parks still standing, so anyone — everyone — can come sit under a tree or take a hike.”

Included in the free admission are weekly Saturday morning guided treks along some of the historic locale’s more than 30 miles of trails.

Normally that reservation-based service costs between $10-$20 on top of a $10 entry fee. The park typically relies on entry fees for about half its annual budget, but it was a financial hit officials were willing to accept to allow residents the find respite in the place Jack London himself called Beauty Ranch. The site, with its pristine wilderness and ancient redwoods, is where the famed author and sustainable agriculture pioneer wrote some of his most famous literary works.

That the park survived damage was chalked up to a mix of timely response by firefighters and a fortunate shift in the winds.

“We like to joke that sometimes Jack’s got our back,” Van Wyk said. “If you look at how close fires got to the park, it really is miraculous that the park was not impacted in some way.”

The campaign to create more defensible space through mitigation activities over the past three years didn’t hurt either. Brush and dead limbs remain in the park’s backcountry zones, however, so those wanting to help with those efforts can volunteer at a Nov. 7 Stewardship Day.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or at kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler.