A brief history or our organization:
The Valley of the Moon Natural History Association was established in 1977. The mid 1980s saw the formation of the inaugural Docent Council, which has since grown to over 100 active volunteers, as well as the Jack London Beauty Ranch Restoration Committee, which put on community consciousness- and fund-raising festivals and lobbied Sacramento HQ to produce a General Plan for Jack London State Historic Park twenty years ahead of schedule, thus enabling physical restoration to begin. As a result, by the end of 2006 London’s Cottage, a completely refurnished historic house museum, was opened to the public.
Other projects embarked on by the VMNHA since the 1990s include a museum exhibit of the Cruise of the Snark and funding the “Wolf House Express” golf carts to help State Parks meet its mandated obligation to provide disabled access to key interpretive sites within the park. Photography and fine arts field seminars, piano recitals on Charmian London’s Steinway to raise money to restore it, storytelling and dramatic presentations by Jack London portrayers were all sponsored by the VMNHA. While Jack London’s empty and partially restored Cottage awaited its final infusion of state funds VMNHA docents designed and executed an extensive photographic display funded by the Association that kept alive the building’s significance in the Beauty Ranch story. From 2000 on, the VMNHA has played a key role in providing monetary support for training, coordination and recognition of docents, volunteer trail maintenance, Cottage staffing, Earth Day projects, and a series of exhibit shelters and displays at Annadel and Jack London Parks. The contents of the displays on London’s ranch and inside the House of Happy Walls, produced by a team of volunteers from the Board working with the park staff and partly funded by the Sonoma County Landmarks Commission, are the result of hundreds of hours of donated labor.
In 2006 the Jack London Lake Alliance, a project of VMNHA, began efforts to fully restore the lake and correct severe erosion caused by mismanagement of the lake outflow. Other deferred maintenance projects in Jack London State HIstoric Park include mortar improvements on many historic structures, roof repairs and water services upgrades.
The largest challenge faced by VMNHA came in June of 2011 when the State announced that all three parks supported by VMNH were scheduled to be closed by June 2012. The members of VMNHA quickly came to the conclusion that the closure of Jack London State Park was unacceptable.
In November 2011 we submitted a proposal to State Parks to enter into an agreement to operate the park. This proposal was accepted and resulted in VMNHA creating a special project, the Jack London Park Partners (JLPP) to manage park operations.
Since May 1, 2012, the park has been under JLPP management. The County’s Regional Parks Department is nearing an agreement with the State to operate Annadel State Park and the Sonoma Ecology Center, along with United Camps and Conferences and the Valley of the Moon Observatory now operate Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Although other agencies will operate Annadel and Sugarloaf State Park, the traditional interpretive support provided by VMNHA in these parks will continue.
Over 77,000 hours of volunteer time has been logged by volunteers in the three parks since the inception of Valley of the Moon Natural History Association.
Hundreds of volunteer hours will be spent this year to:
• help staff the Sugarloaf visitor center, the Jack London Museum and the Cottage.
• provide training for new and continuing docents.
• lead hikes and guided tours on weekends and for school groups.
• patrol the parks on horseback and bikes. • drive the Wolf House Express golf cart.
• repair and build trails.
• Visitors to the House of Happy Walls Jack London Museum will enjoy music played by volunteers on Charmian London’s piano.