Memorial Park, beloved by generations of local families, turns 100 in 2024. Now is the time to get this park readied for its next 100 years. But first, a history lesson…
Stepping back in time
Roy W. Cloud, County Superintendent of Schools, visited the one-room school near La Honda in spring 1923 and became enchanted with the majestic old-growth redwoods. The trees are among the tallest in the world, some rising to 275 feet.
“Beneath their spreading branches grew sword ferns, huckleberries, blackberries, tiger lilies, carpets of white-flowering oxalis and rare California azaleas. Each spring, wild mushrooms grow in profusion.”
Cloud soon became alarmed when alerted by the teacher that the forest had been acquired by a lumber company and was slated for almost immediate destruction. The area was already surrounded by seven ‘smoke-belching sawmills’.
Cloud went to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and pleaded with them to save the forest and turn it into a park. The Board moved with unusual haste to assess the situation and then negotiate a price for the land which included 200 acres of virgin redwoods. San Mateo County paid $70,000 in 1923 for the property.
It was soon decided that this first San Mateo County Park made an appropriate memorial for the 57 County residents who died in the line of duty during WWI.
“Ceremonies of such grand proportions had seldom previously occurred in San Mateo County. It was Independence Day, July 4, 1924. Hundreds of automobiles and easily 1,500 people descended the winding, albeit newly surfaced mountain road from La Honda for the dedication of Memorial Park.”
During the 1930s, much of Memorial Park’s trails, buildings, infrastructure and campsites were laid out and built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Fast forward to today, and those fading facilities are finally getting some much needed love and attention.
Sprucing Up Memorial Park
The San Mateo County Parks Department recently had a new water treatment plant installed at Memorial Park, which provides clean water from Pescadero Creek to the campsites. Next up on the County’s to-do list is a new wastewater treatment plant.
In order to facilitate the completion of this significant infrastructure project safely and efficiently, campsites at Memorial Park will be closed starting in October 2019 and running through to spring 2021. The park will remain open for hiking and picnicking. The Parks Department will also fix up shower and restroom facilities and re-pave roadways.
The San Mateo County Parks Foundation is complementing the County’s investments with improvements aimed at the visitor experience. The goal is to create a warm and welcoming ranger station, engage visitors with a revamped nature center and honor the history and tradition of Memorial Park.
A first round of improvements has been completed and includes energy efficient upgrades to the ranger station such as new double-paned windows and recessed LED lighting. A custom-made redwood countertop and warm coat of paint welcomes visitors. The ranger station restrooms have been completely redone with new low-flow plumbing fixtures and accessibility improvements. Additional improvements are being planned for now.
Share your Memorial Park memories with us!
As our third goal is to honor the history and traditions of Memorial Park, we would love to hear from you. What are your playful memories of Memorial Park? What does this spot in the redwoods mean to you?
Since the Park’s dedication on July 4, 1924, when all 300 campsites were full, many friends and families have come to this special place to camp, hike, picnic, play in the creek and relax among the redwoods. With Memorial Park’s 100th anniversary on the horizon, we hope you will feel inspired to share your pictures, poems and memories with us.
You can reach Michele Beasley, Executive Director, at Michele@SupportParks.org.
The history lesson is provided by Michael Svanevik and Shirley Burgett in San Mateo County Parks: A Remarkable Story of Extraordinary Places and the People Who Built Them. To learn more about how you can buy a copy of this book, please email Michele.