The National Park Service, along with its partners, will open a new visitor center in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) near Los Angeles on Saturday, June 9, 2012.
Located at King Gillette Ranch in the historic heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, the interagency building unifies the local, state and federal park system for SMMNRA's 35 million annual visitors.
Named for the congressman who introduced legislation to create the SMMNRA in 1978, the Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center will be jointly managed by the National Park Service (NPS), California State Parks (CSP), Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA). It replaces an existing NPS visitor center located outside the park boundary in a poor visibility area.
Beilenson, along with other elected officials, will attend the grand opening event on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public is invited to tour the facilities and take part in a variety of ranger-led activities suitable for all ages.
"Through the common vision of this long-lasting relationship with our partners, we now have a one-stop shop for visitors," said SMMNRA Acting Superintendent Lorenza Fong. "Whether they're visiting local, state or federal parks and beaches, the experience should be seamless."
Few locations in California offer in one setting the opportunity to understand a cross-section of California's rich history, including sites that represent Native American settlement, Spanish missions and adobes, Mexican ranchos, California homesteading, and modern movie-making.
One of the most stunning locales in the Santa Monica Mountains, 588-acre King Gillette Ranch is located at the confluence of five major tributaries and offers a rare, unspoiled view of California's rich archaeological cultural and historic resources.
Its broad meadows and low ridgelines serve as a wildlife corridor in the geographic center of the range.
The ranch includes the 1928 mansion designed by Wallace Neff for razor magnate King C. Gillette.
"The opening of the visitors center fulfills a 30-year effort by public agencies, elected officials, conservationists and community members to provide an educational and recreational gateway for millions of visitors," said Joseph T. Edmiston, FAICP, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. "We want to attract those who have yet to experience the astounding beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains."
The visitor center is located in the original horse stables, re-purposed to achieve LEED certification and become the first "net zero" visitor center within the National Park Service. It produces all of its energy needs through a 95 kilowatt photovoltaic solar energy system.
"The ability of this multi-agency facility to promote the history and the environment of the area to all visitors will be priceless," said Craig Sap, district superintendent of the Angeles District of California State Parks.
The four partners jointly acquired the ranch for $35 million in 2005, with 11 separate funding sources and an almost unprecedented partnership between federal, state and local government, as well as private donors.
The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act provided $9.5 million in funding for the construction of the visitor center, in addition to financial and in-kind contributions from MRCA and SMMC. The MRCA manages the surrounding park, which includes hiking trails, beautiful grassy picnic areas, a pond and dormitory facilities for MRCA's overnight educational camps.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. It comprises a seamless network of local, state, and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities.
Complimentary two-hour parking is available adjacent to the visitor center. A larger parking lot administered by the MRCA is nearby for a $7 all-day permit. For more information, visit the park's Website at www.nps.gov/samo/ .