On January 10, President Obama signed legislation upgrading Central California’s Pinnacles National Monument, giving it full national park status. The 26,000-acre site, which is located about 40 miles east of Monterey, California, becomes America’s 59th national park and the first new national park since President Bush elevated two national monuments, the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado and Congaree in South Carolina, to park status in 2004.
While Pinnacles is now our youngest national park, it has also been one of our oldest national monuments. President Theodore Roosevelt gave it that designation in 1908 in recognition of its impressive geographic features including its caves and craggy red rock spires and other formations. More recently, the Pinnacles has also been the site of a captive breeding program to help save the California condor, a species that was close to extinction just a couple of decades ago.
Various environmental groups greeted the news of Pinnacles’ new status with great enthusiasm. “The park’s sanctuary for the California condor and native wildlife, its red crags, caves, impressive displays of spring wildflowers, and opportunities for star-viewing under its noteworthy dark skies make Pinnacles a special place and worthy of its national park status for future generations to enjoy,” noted Neal Desai of the National Parks Conservation Association.
Equally enthusiastic are many of the people who live near the new park and believe that the new designation will bring an increase in visitors to the Pinnacles. “It’s always been an amazing park,” said Debbie Taylor, the president and CEO of the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce. “But it has never had the title to match it.” Currently, the park draws about 175,000 visitors a year.
While there are no accommodations inside the park, there is camping nearby and there are plenty of overnight lodgings in the nearby cities of Monterey, Salinas, and Hollister. For more information on the Pinnacles, check out the Pinnacles page of the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce website or the U.S. National Park Service website.