As Montaña de Oro State Park celebrates its 51st year, here’s some history trivia for you to consider:
▪ How the park got its name: There are at least two stories, according to The Telegram-Tribune (our precursor). A March 8, 1965, article said the ranch took its name from the mountains that are often covered with sticky monkey-flower. But a March 7, 1994 article said it was named by then-owner Irene Starkey McAllister for California poppies and mustard.
▪ The park was dedicated April 24, 1965. In his invocation, Chaplain Wendell Wheeler called on those who administered it to maintain its beauty: “May litter bugs looking at the natural beauty about them be ashamed to leave litter. If this miracle be impractical, help the rest of us to be fierce in our defense of the park.”
▪ About 4,000 visitors visited the park its first weekend, March 20 and 21, 1965.
▪ The 4,441-acre park cost $2.6 million and at the time was the second-largest state park, exceeded only by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
▪ Charles DeTurk, then director of the state Division of Beaches and Parks, was credited with the vision of the rancho as a great state park. At the invocation, he thanked “all you good hardworking taxpayers who paid the bill.”
▪ William “Bill” Arendt, ranch manager/caretaker for seven years, was master of ceremonies that day.
▪ The Spooner family leased and later owned the ranch from the late 1890s to 1933. The visitors center is now housed in the recently renovated farmhouse that was built in 1892.
▪ The cove that bears the Spooner name has seen everything from rock quarrying to rum running.
▪ Over the years there have been proposals to create up to 1,000 camping spaces and a golf course and to stock two streams for year-round trout fishing. None succeeded.
▪ Since opening, the park has nearly doubled in size to 8,000 acres. It draws about 700,000 visitors a year.