WILDCOAST partnered with California State Parks to train over 80 state park interpreters, staff, docents, and volunteers from Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo counties as marine protected area (MPA) ambassadors. WILDCOAST staff led hands-on workshops during which state park staff and volunteers learned about the history and science of MPAs, interpretive techniques to use when speaking with the public, and data collection protocol for the statewide MPA Watch human use community science project.  

Just as state parks protect ecosystems and wildlife on land, MPAs protect our coastal and marine waters by regulating what people are allowed to take from protected areas. California is home to a network of 124 MPAs which together protect over 545,000 acres of some of the most important kelp forests, rocky reefs, tidepools, and wetland habitat in the state.

Many MPAs sit directly adjacent to state park land, creating an even larger corridor of protected areas along our coast. California State Parks recently formed an MPA division with the goal of cross training the staff and volunteers at their coastal parks on both their land-based ecosystems and the neighboring MPAs.

One training took place at the beautiful Asilomar State Beach where staff and volunteers joined WILDCOAST for a walk down the one mile Asilomar Coast Trail overlooking the protected rocky intertidal of Asilomar State Marine Reserve, a no-take MPA, before heading down to the large sandy beach also protected within the MPA and filled with the trails of footprints left behind from the numerous shorebirds that inhabit the area.

Another took place at Natural Bridges State Beach, which borders Natural Bridges State Marine Reserve, a no-take MPA that protects only the rocky intertidal. State Park staff here were interested in collecting data for the MPA Watch community science project in an effort to record human activity on the sandy beach in front of the “natural bridge,” the iconic rock formation from which the park gets its name just outside of the protected area. If surveys show a large amount of take from in front of the bridge, state park staff may consider petitioning to expand the MPA to cover this area as well.

WILDCOAST looks forward to working with California State Parks to offer trainings in more coastal counties over the next year!