The Added Benefits of Investing in State Parks

by Walter T. Moore, President, Peninsula Open Space Trust

On a recent trip to Tahoe, I was reminded of the importance of possessing not only the right skills, but the right outlook for the land protection work we do here at POST. One of my most persistent memories is not the journey itself with five teenage girls in tow or even the beautiful sites on the shores of stunning Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe, but of an initial rejection.

Sugar Pine State Park

Sugar Pine State Park
Photo: Walter T. Moore

We started out mid-morning intending to hike along the Rubicon Trail and lunch at D.L. Bliss State Park. But when we arrived, the park was full. In the face of probable encounters with people who were irritated, disappointed or, like me, anxious (remember, I had five teenage girls I’d just chauffeured for 40 minutes with promises of world-class hiking and beaching), the park attendant was amazingly friendly, upbeat and positive.

Through his patient and competent guidance we were directed to Sugar Pine State Park, with its impressive Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, extensive grounds and turquoise lake waters. Thanks to this helpful individual, our trip was saved.

A wonderful book I’m reading, “Uncommon Service” by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, notes:

Hiring best-of-the-best in both attitude and aptitude is an expensive proposition. … [E]ven in rocky economic times … these employees can cost up to twice as much as employees who excel on only one of these two dimensions.

Nonprofits have a tremendous advantage over the for-profit sector in this regard—we can recruit for aptitude, because people in large measure already have the right attitude. They believe in what they are doing and are motivated by their cause and the chance to share it with others.

Take the cause of our state parks, for example. POST has been working with our partners to keep Portola Redwoods State Park open by garnering the resources needed for long-term sustainability. We share the belief that local park enthusiasts, State Parks staff and volunteers, and the terrific folks at the Portola and Castle Rock Foundation should not be hamstrung by inadequate facilities or insufficient personnel. We’re trying to enable the best possible experience at Portola. Fortunately we’re working within a powerful partnership of people and organizations that have the “attitude and aptitude” to get things done.

Whether it’s at Portola, Sugar Pine, or any of the other great parks in our state, investing in infrastructure frees staff and volunteers to do what they do so well: invite, educate and encourage us all to discover again and again the magic of these parks, how they invigorate us, and why they need to be preserved to invigorate future generations.

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