Making the World a Better Place For All of Us
Our Mission & Approach
The mission of the Mare Island Heritage Trust is to protect, preserve, restore, manage, interpret, promote as a destination and provide for an engaging visitor experience of the open space, historic, cultural and natural resources of Mare Island and its vicinity. Along with public and private sector partners the Mare Island Heritage Trust ensures adequate funding, maintenance and public support of its purposes. The Mare Island Heritage Trust engages in comprehensive planning and the implementation of initiatives and educational and recreational programming for the public experience and enjoyment of an array of unique natural and built areas of Mare Island and its vicinity.
The Mare Island Heritage Trust is a California Nonprofit Corporation and a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt organization Fed.Tax ID # 27-1493661
The Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve is a little hard to explain. From the quirky visitor center in a 5,000 square foot 1934 bomb storage magazine, to a compilation of bunkers, former Navy munitions workers’ housing, to the oldest Naval cemetery in the Pacific–a military cemetery where most anyone from tiny babies, to Commanders and Captains, doctors and nurses, chaplains, and family members lie together with sailors, marines and foreign sailors from Russia, France, Canada and Britian, to ruins of a caretaker’s home and tennis courts converted to picnic grounds, to stunning 7-county panoramic vistas of Mt. Diablo and Mt. Tam, Mt. St. Helena, the San Pablo Bay and Carquinez and Mare Island Straits, the bridges crossing the Carquinez, the oldest grain mill in the Bay Area and, well every little detail of the magnificence of the setting on the “north shore” of San Francisco Bay.
What’s even harder to explain is how it came to be a park open to the public every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Because, while it was always intended as a regional park in the base reuse plans, one day in 2002, it was suddenly slated for use as a Liquified Natural Gas tanker terminal and 1500 megawatt power plant.
Fast forward to April 2008. We opened the Preserve as volunteers and operate it on your donation since then. While the City of Vallejo owns the property, they give us no funds for operations. From weddings to birthday parties, golf ball hunts for easter to birdwatching festivals to overnight camping in a yurt to our popular Halloween haunt, NightMARE Island, you will be delighted with the fun on tap. And…you will be awed, hushed, touched, refreshed, restored, reconnected and inspired to keep this magic place open and forever free. That’s right! This park is totally operated on your gift. Come visit. Come stay and as we love to say, “Come for the sunset. Stay for the stars.”
Lessons Learned in Nature-Time
Mare Island Heritage Trust was established with a primary purpose of protecting the natural and biological resources of Mare Island and making them available for compatible public use. As our name suggests, we actively serve the resource and the community. We are civic-minded naturalists and cultural heritage preservationists and adept park managers who have entrusted ourselves with this awesome responsibility for the benefit of the local community, society at large and the Earth herself.
With that goal, we established the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve when no one else would or could. It was gutsy to found what might have been a local, regional, state or national park, but because none of those agencies stepped up to the plate or existed, we founded the Preserve on our own as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization with approval and cooperation of City staff.
Times were tough and we knew it would get worse. Yet, it had been 5 years since the Community rejected the Liquified Natural Gas project and we were poised to make good on the promise of a park on the south end of Mare Island. The City of Vallejo entered into bankruptcy 3 weeks after we boldly founded the Preserve as a protected, non-profit-run, wildlands park.
We opened it for limited and interim use knowing all along that there would be many steps that would need to be taken to develop a permanent park plan.
Now, more than a decade later, the Preserve is still in an interim use status. That is one of many reasons why it is not currently “upgraded” to a National Park type park. If you do a bit of research about Preserves you will note that they are most often set aside as Preserves, precisely because there is something that is recognized as being incredibly special about the property and it resources.
The 35 member, Mayoral appointed Mare Island Regional Park Taskforce (2003-2007) conducted extensive review of these resources and recommended in the plan that the property be operated as a Preserve to both protect the fragile natural and cultural history values, while assuring appropriate public access.
The guiding principles contained in the Final Report prepared with the Taskforce by a City hired consultant, for $75,000, are our managing bible. During this interim use phase, our management policy is to ” Do No Harm, Before You Do Good”. That’s about as simple as it gets. And, it’s worked well for the resource and for our Park Users.
Rustic in nature, the Preserve is meant to be a respite from modern life and innovation. A place where time stops and even if only for a few moments, one can slip into nature where everything is true and as simple as it seems. When you step onto the trails of the Preserve, everything you encounter from the majestic trees and wild fennel to the butterflies and birds, are on their own nature-time, which is perhaps a magical place in between our concept of time.
Those who understand what this means also understand that it is the rustic, natural state of the land itself that allows us to experience this nature-time. For this reason, we have labored endlessly to not only protect the land itself from development, but also to ensure that all our programs, community events and fundraising activities that are required to keep the Preserve open, operate in a way that works in harmony with the rustic nature we are in stewardship of. In other words, it doesn’t just matter what we do here, but how we do it.
Our Camping Program is a brilliant example of how we generate funding for operations and maintenance of the Preserve by utilizing Nature herself. Yes, Nature provides. 100% of our operating expenses come from public donations at the trailheads, private donations and program revenue. By establishing safe, dedicated, rustic camping sites and yurt rentals, our visitors can stay overnight and experience nature-time on a deeper level.
Campers not only get to take in all that the Preserve has to offer, the fees generated from our booking partner Hipcamp, support the entire Preserve, including maintenance, mowing equipment and sanitation services for all Park visitors. American Hip-campers come during the Spring and Summer months and even throughout the Wintertime, with an uptick of International visitors from Europe, the African continent, India, Columbia, as examples, in the late Summer and Fall. Camping has therefore become a vital way for us to operate year-round.
Nature seems to know best and we are following her lead. Over recent years, we have found that in order to grow our Preserve while maintaining its rustic, natural state, our programs and fundraising must be simple and rooted in nature, as well.
This is one of the reasons that we are reinventing our annual Halloween event in October to return to the simple, rustic nature of our Park. This year we will utilize the innate, historical resources of the Preserve, such as the inherently spooky military bunkers and the old Naval Cemetery and the dark forests of our Preserve, working alongside the nature and cultural history features that we have inherited, to scare our visitors. If we have learned anything from Nature, it is that simple is often better.
In addition, since we have yet to find a better way to share our resources and fund our operation than through our Pilot Camping Program, we are petitioning the City to allow us to continue to operate beyond their October 1, 2019 closure of the program. It is imperative, if we are to keep the Preserve open that we be allowed to continue our year-round camping experience. We introduced camping in 2015 and it has been approved by the City, ever since. Camping provisions are included in the most recent draft management agreements between our non-profit organization and the City. With hearty, temporary, structures built to withstand all types of weather, from our local partner, Yurtastic of Vallejo CA, we are able to accommodate campers throughout the winter months. Like we’ve said, if allowed to, Nature will provide.
To enjoy a moment in Nature-time and experience all that Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve has to offer, slip out to the park this weekend for a light hike or log onto Hipcamp.com and book your next overnight camping stay. Donations can be made at the trailhead, or at paypal.me/mareislandheritage.
The Mare Island Heritage Trust is a California Nonprofit Corporation and a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt organization
Fed.Tax ID # 27-1493661