Piedras Blancas light is on volunteers

A diverse group of dedicated volunteers — who do everything from guiding public tours of the Piedras Blancas lighthouse to yanking out ice plant and replanting with native species — received national recognition Wednesday.

Toni and Abel Martinez, two of about 50 volunteers at what’s officially known as the Piedras Blancas Light Station and Outstanding Natural Area, accepted the federal Bureau of Land Management award in Washington, D.C.

The national “Making a Difference” honor is given annually for exceptional accomplishments in volunteer stewardship of BLM lands. The Piedras Blancas Light Station volunteers, who put in more than 15,500 hours in 2009, were the only California recipients of seven awards given this year.

The 19-acre light station and its more than 135-year-old lighthouse are about 14 miles north of Cambria, on a rocky promontory between Highway 1 and the sea.

It’s the second time Piedras volunteers have won the award: In 2004, Carole Adams of Cambria received the “Making a Difference” honor for launching and shepherding the light station’s volunteer program.

Adams said the 2010 award is “a dream come true. The PBLS volunteers are the greatest!”

The Martinezes are among the docents who teach tour visitors about the lighthouse and its dramatic, oceanfront site. The couple and other Piedras Blancas volunteers also maintain, improve, update, rehabilitate, restore and create displays for the tower, other buildings, grounds and the site. Group members also work in the gift shop and research the station’s history.

Volunteers also raise money for the restoration work, especially the Piedras Blancas Light Station Association, and a separate group of Grover Beach elementary students — the “Pennies for Piedras Kids” — who have collected more than $6,000 worth of pocket change and donations to help restore the lighthouse’s historic tower room and light.

Piedras Blancas Light Station tours

Tours of Piedras Blancas Light Station are offered Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Meet at 9:45 a.m. at the former Piedras Blancas Motel 1.5 miles north of the lighthouse. $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6-17 and free for 5 and under. For details and to make arrangements for groups of 10 or more, call 927-7361 or e-mail PiedrasBlancasTours@gmail.com.

The Piedras Blancas Light Station Association is seeking volunteer guides.

An orientation session is set for Thursday. Call 927-7361 or e-mail piedrasblancastours@gmail.com for details.