Fundraising builds foundation for many Cabrillo National Monument programs and services
The Cabrillo National Monument Foundation helps augment and enhance the park.
Just over 400 sites across the United States are managed by the National Park Service, which helps fund their operations and upkeep. But that is just a general fund. For locations such as Point Loma’s Cabrillo National Monument, groups like the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation augment and enhance the park through targeted fundraising that helps provide several experiences for guests.
The foundation, designated as a cooperating association by the U.S. Department of the Interior, also runs the visitor center store.
Each year, the park presents the foundation with a proposal including items — usually around 20 annually — for which it needs additional funding, according to Emily Moore, executive director of the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation since 2018. The proposed items can include supplies, activities and exhibits.
Through store revenue, membership fees and various fundraising campaigns, Moore and the foundation help make those projects a reality.
“You’re around visitors who are happy to be here,” Moore said. “It’s really hard not to like your job when you work at a park. It’s a real joy to come up here.”
Moore works closely with park Superintendent Andrea Compton, who praised the foundation’s work.
“The additional funding that the foundation provides us gives unique experiences,” Compton said. “I don’t know of another park doing the kind of outreach we’re doing for STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] for young kids. The foundation’s funding provides the opportunity to provide that kind of program.”
In addition to visitor enhancement efforts, the foundation plays a significant role in funding things such as buses for schools to offer field trips to the park, as well as a program called EcoLogik, a two-week STEM summer camp that promotes interest in natural sciences among female and female-identifying youths.
Another program that helps engage young people is “Conservational Comics,” in which students are given materials to create a comic strip focused on natural sciences at the Cabrillo National Monument.
The foundation also funds a large portion of the volunteer program, something that Moore and Compton say is of the utmost importance in making the park stand out on a national scale. Volunteers aid with duties including serving as roving guides, operating the visitor store, acting out living history at the park’s iconic lighthouse or helping with the various scientific studies conducted within the park boundaries.
“I become more and more impressed each year with the innovation within our park team,” Moore said. “They are incredible people who keep coming up with new ideas to be there for our visitors and make this park the best it can be.”
Moore estimated that the total hours put in by park volunteers equate to the work of 12 full-time employees.
“We certainly try to invest in our volunteers,” Compton said, “and we hope it’s a mutual experience in both directions — that they feel as much reward in the experiences they offer as we gain from their willingness to help.”
One of the volunteer docents, Mission Bay High School senior Sita Antel, was recently given the National Park Service’s George and Helen Hartzog Youth Award for outstanding volunteer service during the 2020 fiscal year.
Compton said Sita, 17, was a participant in one of the youth outreach programs the foundation helps promote before returning as a youth volunteer. She started working as a docent when she was 11.
“We still get visitors who remember, even as adults, the park being one of their first trips as elementary-grade students,” Compton said.
Moore said the investments made on young people through educational outreach and the park’s junior ranger program are among the most rewarding parts of her job.
“Seeing the long-lasting impact that the programs we fund have on a young person is so gratifying,” Moore said.
The foundation also plays a role in enhancing accessibility for all guests. Funds it raised help employ sign language interpreters for guided tours.
“Across the National Park Service and with park partners, there’s been a real push to provide access to all visitors to parks,” Moore said. “The foundation tries to go the extra mile to try and provide access to the park in different ways.”
As part of that push, the foundation helped fund recently installed tactile maps in the breezeway of the visitor center. The raised maps, intended for those who are vision-impaired, feature Braille inscriptions. There’s also space for a wheelchair.
“That map was a huge win this past year,” Moore said. “We’re really proud of that.
“There was a group of blind bikers who had biked up to the park, and the woman who arranged their visit ... received a note saying how much that tactile map made their experience so much better. Knowing that I funded that map, to hear feedback like that is so rewarding.”
The park and the foundation are considering what they refer to as a “future trails” project for upcoming years that would include three trails altogether.
The first would be a roadside coastal trail, proposed as a paved walkway along the main road to provide easier access for wheelchairs and strollers to the tide pool areas. The second trail is proposed to stretch from the kelp forest and whale-watching overlook to the intertidal zone, connecting the topside of the park with the coastal side. The third trail is envisioned as an improvement of access to one of the park’s military history structures.
The Cabrillo National Monument Foundation currently is exploring different avenues for fundraising, though it’s looking forward to one of its signature events, “Cabrillo Under the Stars,” an after-sundown soiree at the park.
Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, the most recent event was held virtually in May. The outlook for pandemic restrictions in the coming spring will dictate whether the 2022 edition will be fully online or in person.
For more information about the foundation, visit cnmf.org.