Mark Your Calendars: New Visitor Center To Open June 9 At Santa Monica Mountains NRA

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A new visitor center at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area will open at the King Gillette Ranch on June 9, replacing an older National Park Service facility outside the NRA.

The facility -- the Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center -- is named for the congressman who introduced legislation to create the NRA back in 1978. The facility will be jointly managed by the Park Service), California State Parks, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

Congressman Beilenson, along with other elected officials, will attend the grand opening event on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public is invited to tour the facilities and take part in a variety of ranger-led activities suitable for all ages.

"Through the common vision of this long-lasting relationship with our partners, we now have a one-stop shop for visitors," said SMMNRA Acting Superintendent Lorenza Fong. "Whether they're visiting local, state or federal parks and beaches, the experience should be seamless."

"The opening of the visitor's center fulfills a 30-year effort by public agencies, elected officials, conservationists and community members to provide an educational and recreational gateway for millions of visitors," added Joseph T. Edmiston, FAICP, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. "We want to attract those who have yet to experience the astounding beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains."

One of the most stunning locales in the Santa Monica Mountains, 588-acre King Gillette Ranch is located at the confluence of five major tributaries and offers a rare, unspoiled view of California's rich archaeological cultural and historic resources. Its broad meadows and low ridgelines serve as a wildlife corridor in the geographic center of the range.

The ranch includes the 1928 mansion designed by Wallace Neff for razor magnate King C. Gillette. The visitor center is located in the original horse stables, re-purposed to achieve LEED certification and become the first "net zero" visitor center within the National Park System. It produces all of its energy needs through a 95-kilowatt photovoltaic solar energy system.

The four partners jointly acquired the ranch for $35 million in 2005, with 11 separate funding sources and an almost unprecedented partnership between federal, state and local government, as well as private donors.

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act provided $9.5 million in funding for the construction of the visitor center, in addition to financial and in-kind contributions from MRCA and SMMC. The MRCA manages the surrounding park, which includes hiking trails, beautiful grassy picnic areas, a pond and dormitory facilities for MRCA's overnight educational camps.