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About the Series
California Forever is a two-part PBS television special that tells the story of California’s state parks, from Yosemite in 1864 to the present day. It seeks to go beyond the natural beauty of the parks, and into the integral role that parks play in preserving American history and culture.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Backcountry Pictures.
The History of California State Parks
The first episode highlights the discovery and creation of California’s state parks system and celebrates the individuals and groups who have helped preserve and protect them for future generations. It takes viewers on a scenic, cultural and historical tour of California’s state parks, highlighting the people, key events and locales.
The episode begins with the discovery of the giant sequoias in 1852 by Augustus T. Dowd and recounts the establishment of California’s first state park, Yosemite. It also shares stories of citizen action to preserve many of California’s most celebrated landscapes as state parks: Coast redwoods, Big Sur, Point Lobos, Hearst Castle, Lake Tahoe and the Anza-Borrego Desert.
Historic places and people that commemorate crucial chapters of the California story are also explored, including Spanish colonists at Old Monterey, the thousands of fortune seekers from around the world who came to Gold Country and more.
Parks for the Future
The second episode presents the challenges state parks face in California; habitat destruction by overuse; protection of native species at the expense of recreation; reclaiming industrial brown fields to create new parks in dense urban areas; establishing historic sites that commemorate people and events from diverse cultures; and imminent park closures.
This episode highlights the trials of balancing peaceful solitude at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park with the growing demand for “off-roading” at neighboring Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. It then tells of the wildlife preservation efforts for the northern elephant seal and western snowy plover. California Forever also looks at reclaiming land for parks in urban settings, including the “re-wilding” of the Los Angeles River. The episode also celebrates the diverse cultures and histories of many groups who made California home; Chinese who first arrived at the Angel Island Immigration Station, and freed slaves who created a utopian agrarian community at what is now Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. It concludes with a look at different threats facing state parks, including encroachment of private industry, climate change and closures as a result of state budget deficits.