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Celebrating Cabrillo National Monument

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Aired 8/25/09

San Diego's only national monument, Cabrillo National Monument, is celebrating National Parks Founders' Day and San Diego County Public Lands Day with exhibitors from county parks and living history performances at the lighthouse and visitors center.

Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo was an explorer and conquistador. He first anchored his ship, the San Salvador, in San Diego bay near Point Loma. This statue honoring Cabrillo looks out over the bay.
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Above: Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo was an explorer and conquistador. He first anchored his ship, the San Salvador, in San Diego bay near Point Loma. This statue honoring Cabrillo looks out over the bay.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to a special broadcast of These Days live from the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma. Today is National Park Service Founders Day, always a big day on the calendar for the nation's parks and monuments. And this year KPBS is getting involved in the celebration in anticipation of a very special television event, Ken Burns' new documentary on America's National Parks. That documentary is being previewed today at Cabrillo National Monument as part of the festivities, and it will be aired on KPBS Television next month. We'll be speaking more about the Burns documentary in the next hour of These Days. Today, the Cabrillo Monument has named today a celebration of San Diego County's parks, natural areas and open spaces so that means in addition to the special events here at the Monument today, you can also learn a lot about public parks around the county. And joining us to talk about the many activities going on at Cabrillo National Monument today are my guests Superintendent Tom Workman. And welcome, Tom.

TOM WORKMAN (Superintendent, Cabrillo National Monument): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: And Ranger Karl Pierce is with us, too. Good morning.

KARL PIERCE (Park Ranger): Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And let me start with you, if I may, Tom, perhaps you can tell our audience why we're all here at the Cabrillo National Monument today.

WORKMAN: Well, as you earlier stated that it is Founders Day. It is ninety – or, it's our birthday. We're 93 years old. We were established August 25th, 1916. But to kick that off on Founders Day, we decided that we would celebrate it because – with other activities and that's inviting other land management agencies and other organizations and open space – public open spaces to participate so that…

CAVANAUGH: Yes, and the kickoff – You're also using today, excuse me, as a kickoff to Cabrillo National Monument's 100th anniversary. When does that come up?

WORKMAN: That will come up in October of…

PIERCE: October 14th.

WORKMAN: October 14th. Yeah, I was going to say the 13th. October…

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

WORKMAN: …14th of 2013…

CAVANAUGH: That's a…

WORKMAN: …will be our centennial.

CAVANAUGH: So you're using all this time to lead up to that centennial celebration.

WORKMAN: Yes, we are. This is a great event because we hope to do this next year as well and following up the succeeding years after that all the way up to nineteen – or, 2016 for the Park Service Centennial celebration.

CAVANAUGH: And I'm wondering, why have you included all of San Diego's – County's parks and open spaces in this celebration today? Why all these vendors here and what are you planning to tell the public by doing this?

WORKMAN: Well, I think for one thing that not only just Cabrillo National Monument, which is part of the National Park Service, but there's other organizations and agencies and sister agencies like the BLM and U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that – but more importantly, we all have a common bond and that is saving these places because of – Well, one big thing right now is climate change, of course, but we are all faces, whether you're a city park, a county park, so having them here and showcasing their parks, they also interact with other parks and other agencies and we get to understand some of the things that are going on within the county.

CAVANAUGH: And, Karl, let me bring you in, Ranger Karl Pierce on the conversation. Tell us what else is going on. I understand visitors can actually go into the lighthouse today. This is one of the two days each year that that's open, right?

PIERCE: Yeah, it is, Maureen. Every year we've opened the tower of the lighthouse on our Founders Day and also on the anniversary the lighthouse went into operation, which is November 15th. And we have a living history going on there. We'll have tours of the lighthouse so people will be able to get up into the tower section and see that third order Fresnel lens close up. We'll have a two-guided – ranger guided hikes of the bayside trail today with Ranger Jason Richards. We'll have a ranger talk by Ranger Rick Jenkins about the coast defenses and the military history of Point Loma. Ranger Taylor Jordan will have – give a mili – a talk about Cabrillo. We'll have films about national parks and previews, as you mentioned, of the Ken Burns documentary in our auditorium all day.

CAVANAUGH: And we must mention, it is also an exceptionally beautiful day down here today.

WORKMAN: Yes, it is.

CAVANAUGH: You didn't expect so much sunshine did you, Tom?

WORKMAN: No, I thought it was going to be a little overcast but it really is nice. Very warm, too.

CAVANAUGH: And how many exhibitors are you expecting today?

PIERCE: We have about 35 exhibitors from throughout the county and it's the federal, as Tom said, federal, state, county, some of the municipalities, special districts like the Port District, the Helix Water District. We have several non-profit land trusts like the Nature Conservancy, the San Elijo Conservancy and the San Diego River Park Foundation. So it's going to be an exciting day for people to learn about the wealth of parks and open space here in San Diego County.

WORKMAN: And we do have some outside of the county and that's our other sister parks that are part of the Mediterranean network, and that is from Santa Monica National Recreation Area and Channel Islands National Park. We have the Research Learning Center here as well.

CAVANAUGH: How much effort does it take to get ready for something like this? I mean, the lighthouse is only open one day a year, so what do you do to prepare for it?

PIERCE: There's a lot of cleaning that goes on.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

PIERCE: We have great group of volunteers who help us out. And that's one of the reasons we're only opening it twice a year because we have to have a lot of volunteer support to do it and they have jobs, too, so – but they're able to come out. But cleaning the lens, cleaning the lighthouse, people coming in their period clothing, and…

CAVANAUGH: I've seen some of them, yes. Is that why – is that what they're doing here with the period clothing.

PIERCE: Yes. Yes, they're doing the living history. And the period that we interpreted the lighthouse is the 1880s, which was the period during which the lighthouse was first painted – well, first whitewashed, painted white.

CAVANAUGH: And as you mentioned, Karl, one of the big attractions today is the preview screening of the Ken Burns documentary. Have either of you seen that?

PIERCE: I've seen the previews and they're very exciting. I think what I liked the most was there's a lot of new stories, people who I had never heard of, who were involved with the creation of various national parks so he went beyond, you know, John Muir and Ansel Adams and brought in a whole bunch of new faces to parks – the parks' histories.

CAVANAUGH: Well, Tom, how many people are you expecting here today?

WORKMAN: That's a hard estimate because we have been getting a lot of folks still, a lot of visitors, during the week so we don't know if it's just on a regular day that we're just going to get visitors or if there's some folks out there that have the time – We realize it is during the week and so some people have to work and school is started so that adds…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

WORKMAN: …some problems to come to the park. But we hope to get a good crowd out here.

CAVANAUGH: And if they can make it down, this is the day to do it, huh?

WORKMAN: Right. And, like I said, we look forward to doing this for the next few years out, so…

CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you both for talking with us. I've been speaking with Superintendent Tom Workman and Ranger Karl Pierce. Thanks so much for taking some time out of the beginning of this day to talk to us on KPBS.

WORKMAN: Thank you, Maureen.

PIERCE: Thank you, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know, too, events celebrating the National Park Service Founders Day at Cabrillo National Monument continue until 5:00 p.m. For a list of activities and their times, you can go to the events section at KPBS.org.

(musical interlude)

CAVANAUGH: These Days is coming to you live from the Cabrillo National Monument. We're taking part in the annual National Park Service Founders Day festivities. But we can't go much further without talking about the namesake of this monument, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Cabrillo's voyage along with all the Spanish explorations and conquests in the new world is tainted by modern standards by the forced labor of native people but no one denies that such explorations took courage and audacity. Cabrillo not only risked death in his exploration of California's Pacific coast, he actually died on the journey. In 1542, his was the first European vessel to anchor in San Diego. Joining me with more about Juan Cabrillo is my guest, Ranger Bob Munson. He's the park historian. And, Bob, welcome to These Days.

BOB MUNSON (National Park Ranger, Cabrillo Historian): Thank you. It's good to be here.

CAVANAUGH: Now tell us, who was Juan Cabrillo? Do we know much about his early life?

MUNSON: Interesting question, who was Juan Cabrillo. Juan Rodriguez—he didn't pick up the Cabrillo until later on in life—we don't know much about him. We don't know, for example, where he was born or even exactly when. He first appears in history as a ten-year-old, roughly, in Sevilla, Spain. And prior to that, we have no idea of what he was. He may have been farmed out as an orphan by the church to be an apprentice to a shipwright. All we know is that at ten years old, he shows up with the Ortega family in Sevilla.

CAVANAUGH: It's interesting, you know, I heard that there was some sort of controversy as to whether or not Cabrillo was Portuguese instead of Spanish.

MUNSON: Well, basically, we don't know. It depends on where he was born. The problem is, by the time he was ten, he was living in Spain, he was speaking Spanish, and he regarded himself as a Spanish subject all of his life.

CAVANAUGH: Because he spent his career in service to Spain.

MUNSON: Exactly.

CAVANAUGH: And so that's why we say Ca-bree-oh (phonetically) and not Ca-brillo (phonetically), right?

MUNSON: I hate to say it but, yep, that's exactly the case because that's the only name he ever used.

CAVANAUGH: Now as so many explorers did in the 16th century, he apparently set out to look for cities rumored to be fabulously wealthy.

MUNSON: Well, in this instance, yes. He had been part of the taking of the Aztec empire and he had helped conquer Guatemala. But his Pacific voyage that brought him up this coast was not so much looking for fantastic empires or anything along that line. His primary job from the Viceroy was to determine whether the Straits of Anian really existed and to find a route to China to open trade relations.

CAVANAUGH: Because he had actually had a very varied career before he even started this trip along the California coast.

MUNSON: Oh, yes. He is truly, in many respects, a Renaissance man. He did a lot of different things in his life and was pretty successful in virtually all of them. He was a shipbuilder, he was a miner, he was a rancher. He was obviously a soldier. And so he was a man of tremendous ability, very obviously intelligent, and probably had a tremendous amount of drive.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, because he was a businessman in Guatemala, wasn't he?

MUNSON: Oh, yeah, very definitely.

CAVANAUGH: And he built the ship that brought him here, is that correct?

MUNSON: Right. The San Salvador was one of the ships that he built. We know of at least seven that he built, two of which went to Peru and a couple of which were involved in the Villalobos expedition across the Pacific. So he was a very active shipbuilder.

CAVANAUGH: It's hard to imagine back in that time, you know, how much courage it actually took people to make these adventures. You must've thought about that, being the historian.

MUNSON: Oh, yes.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

MUNSON: One of the things I like to point out is we think of Christopher Columbus and his three ships. People don't seem to remember that you could take the entire fleet of Columbus, all three ships, and put them together at the same time on a basketball court.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, my.

MUNSON: These were very, very tiny ships. Some of the school buses that arrive here at Cabrillo National Monument are as big as the San Miguel.

CAVANAUGH: And they – and Cabrillo's famous ship, and you have a model of it here, right?

MUNSON: Yes, we do. The San Salvador. There is a lot of discussion as to what exactly she really looked like so our model for right now is probably as good as any but there's been a tremendous amount of work being done by the San Diego Maritime Museum. There have been literally international symposiums discussing what the San Salvador really looked like so they're refining it down and, ultimately, the ship that the San Diego Maritime Museum will be building, the San Salvador, is probably going to be as good as it's ever going to get unless we find a painting of her.

CAVANAUGH: Well, then when Cabrillo actually did get here to San Diego, what did he find? What did he see?

MUNSON: Well, basically, he was most impressed initially by the fact that it was probably the best harbor he had seen since leaving Navidad. And his biggest thing was that he was concerned about finding fresh water. And he did, ultimately, encounter the Kumeyaay peoples. But his primary job was to map the coast and so the finding of the harbor was the really big thing for him, a good secure harbor with fresh water.

CAVANAUGH: And he stayed here only a short time.

MUNSON: Six days.

CAVANAUGH: And where did he go from here?

MUNSON: Well, after having replenished his ships and crews with fresh water, fresh food and so forth, he had to move on and that moving on took him on up the coast through the Channel Islands. We know he got as far as Monterey Bay. The problem was, he was heading into winter and the winter winds come from the north. In addition, he didn't realize it but he was bucking one of the strongest natural currents in the world, the Japan Current, which would flow south. So in a ship that's able to make only four to six knots, if you're fighting a two-knot current plus northern prevailing winds, you're not getting anywhere very fast. And he ultimately had to winter over in the Channel Islands. And in the Channel Islands, along about the end of December, some of his men were ambushed on shore by the local folks and he went ashore to try to rescue them, in the process slipped and fell. We don't really know what he broke, some accounts say an arm, others say a leg. They say that he died of gangrene. The problem is gangrene does not kill as rapidly as he died.

CAVANAUGH: Oh.

MUNSON: And in all likelihood, he also had suffered some internal injuries that were not apparent. But, basically, January 1543, he died in the Channel Islands.

CAVANAUGH: How do we know what we do know about his voyage?

MUNSON: Well, basically, virtually everything that we know comes down to a third-hand report. It's – All of his logs, all of his notes and his reports would have been copied in triplicate and some kept in Mexico, some sent back to Spain. None of those are – We don't know where they are. I call – say they have been misplaced because I'm sure they still exist. There are 16 million legolas in the archive of the Indies that have never been indexed. But what we have is a third-hand transcription made decades later of his original report. So we have to do a lot of detective work, jigsuzzle – jig puzzle work…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

MUNSON: …trying to fit all the pieces together. Practical seamen have tried – followed out his routes, encountered the winds and the currents that he has and studied the various anchorages he could've used. There's been a lot of just sitting down and evaluating the report. And a lot of good police work, basically…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

MUNSON: …is what it boils down to. It's detective work.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Juan Cabrillo obviously didn't find fabulously wealthy cities as he went along the California Pacific coast. But what did he find that that was of benefit to the empire of Spain?

MUNSON: Well, unfortunately the empire was thoroughly unimpressed by his exploration.

CAVANAUGH: Ah.

MUNSON: He hadn't cleared up the Straits of Anian thing. He had not found a route to China. He had not found a country that was particularly of interest to anybody. So, in a way, at the time he was regarded as a failure. The expedition basically told the Spaniards don't bother to come here, there's nothing here worth having. And, effectively, for 60 years they didn't come back. So, it's unfortunate. He did fantastic work and he – it was a magnificent effort on his part and the parts of his crews and so forth. It deserved better than to get pigeonholed in some office in Sevilla.

CAVANAUGH: It's, I think, important to point out that Juan Cabrillo did not name San Diego, San Diego.

MUNSON: No, he did not. As was traditional in the Spanish, things were named births, for example, or places located, were named for the saint day. And the day after Cabrillo arrived here in our bay was the Feast of the Archangel San Miguel, so he named San Diego, San Miguel. And in 1602, Vizcaino came along and said, nah, I'm here on – and we're going to call it San Diego instead.

CAVANAUGH: And that's the one that stuck.

MUNSON: That's the one that stuck.

CAVANAUGH: Now here at the monument, how do you teach about Cabrillo? I see that you're sort of in old-fashiony kind of garb.

MUNSON: Yeah, we do a lot of living history interpretation because in a day and age of a lot of electronic media, Gameboys and VCRs and all the various games that are available out there, if we don't make history human, make it colorful and bring it alive, young people and young adults tend to tune us out. So what we can do with our living history is give them a chance to interact, to relate to a person from another time and another place and, in the process, make it obvious that history can be interesting, it can be fun, it's colorful and in many respects it's a lot weirder than some of the games they play.

CAVANAUGH: True.

MUNSON: A lot of the things that happened if they – you tried to tell them as a story, people wouldn't buy it.

CAVANAUGH: What are kids and young adults, what are they most impressed by, do you think, in the story?

MUNSON: The food.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, what do you tell them about the food?

MUNSON: Well, we point out that basically breakfast aboard ship was salt fish, beans and hardtack. And lunch was salt fish, beans and hardtack. And dinner was hardtack, salt beans – salt fish, and beans. And that was 24/7.

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

MUNSON: And it gets a little on the monotonous side. They also find the clothing and the armor and so forth fascinating.

CAVANAUGH: Do you have armor here?

MUNSON: Oh, yes.

CAVANAUGH: And does anyone wear it?

MUNSON: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we let – Anytime we can, we let folks try on the armor, the clothes, pick up the equipment. We don't advocate them using the sword on each other but we give them the opportunity to heft it.

CAVANAUGH: I wonder, as I say, you must've done a lot of thinking about what it took to make a voyage like this. Do you think people these days are tough enough to get on that ship with Juan Cabrillo?

MUNSON: I have been doing living history for about 35 years and I have gotten out and lived for as long as nine days at a stretch as a Spanish colonial individual. And what it has done, and my reading what it has done, is convince me that biologically we are probably stronger today but in terms of sheer stamina and ability to take it, there isn't a modern Olympic athlete alive that could hold a candle to what these guys did.

CAVANAUGH: And that's after your considered thought and actually trying it yourself.

MUNSON: Oh, yeah.

CAVANAUGH: What do you think people would be most surprised, outside of the food, about learning about Juan Cabrillo and his role in establishing San Diego as a place?

MUNSON: To me, the thing that has always struck me is that even though they looked different and they dressed different and they're doing all sorts of things that we don't do or can't do today, bottom line is, these were people just like us who had a lot of the same concerns we do. The men who were on this voyage were there to, let's face it, get rich but primarily so that they could support their families. And this is something that’s true even today. So I feel that there is a tremendous kinship between us and them. They made mistakes, we can learn from those mistakes. We make mistakes and, hopefully, we aren't making the same mistakes they did.

CAVANAUGH: To actually learn from history, that would be interesting, wouldn't it?

MUNSON: Yeah. We don't do it very often but…

CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking…

MUNSON: Thank you, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: …with us today. Ranger Bob Munson is going to talk with us a little more in the next part of our show but before we move on, I'd like – We'd like to hear from some of the people and the exhibitors who are visiting Cabrillo Monument for National Parks Founders Day. And our producer Hank Crook is standing by with a guest.

HANK CROOK (KPBS Producer): Thank you, Maureen. I'm here with an exhibitor from the Chula Vista Nature Center. And what is your name?

TINA MATHIAS (Exhibitor, Chula Vista Nature Center): My name is Tina Mathias.

CROOK: And what do you do over at the Nature Center?

MATHIAS: Well, one thing we do is go on outreaches like today. We also bring in three to four school groups a day, teach them about the native wildlife and the watershed and about San Diego Bay.

CROOK: And what do you think about this national park here today?

MATHIAS: Oh, it's a beautiful place to have – especially to come out and visit. I know we're talking about Founders Day today but we're part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge system and that needs to be brought in, too. So a lot of the exhibits here – exhibitors here are from all over San Diego.

CROOK: Well, thank you. And what are some of the offerings at the Chula Vista Nature Center?

MATHIAS: Glad you asked that. Chula Vista Nature Center is on 316 acres of refuge property, and we have – Our facility teaches about the wildlife and about the native exhibit – or native animals around. We have golden bald eagles, sharks and rays that you can pet. We have giant green sea turtles. It's a great place to bring the family, have a picnic out for the day, and just come on in and enjoy and learn about the native habitats.

CROOK: Absolutely. Well, thank you very much, Tina.

MATHIAS: Thank you. I appreciate it. Have a great day.

CAVANAUGH: And thank you, Hank.

CROOK: You're welcome.

CAVANAUGH: That's just one of the exhibitors here today. One of the visitors here today with all the San Diego County parks and open spaces have little booths set up. It's just starting to get underway here at the Cabrillo National Monument. When we return, we'll hear how this beautiful spot in Point Loma went from a place with some interesting history to an official national monument. Stay with us. These Days returns in just a few minutes.

# # #

CAVANAUGH: We're here to celebrate the National Park Service Founders Day and now would be a good time to find out more about Cabrillo National Monument, which is San Diego's only national monument. We explored the history of Juan Cabrillo earlier this hour but how did the tip of Point Loma, with the old lighthouse and tide pools get the designation as a national monument? And how is it being preserved? With me to talk about all there is to see and do at this monument and about its history are my guests. I want to welcome back Ranger Bob Munson, and my other guest is Ranger Jason Richards. He's here to talk about the natural world of the monument and we'll be talking to you in just a few minutes, Jason.

JASON RICHARDS (National Park Ranger): Great. I'll look forward to that.

CAVANAUGH: And I'd like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. Have you visited the Cabrillo Monument? Have you taken visiting relatives here? What is your favorite memory of this national monument? You can give us a call at 1-888-895-5727, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. Now I spoke earlier with Tom Workman a little bit about the fact that Cabrillo National Monument celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2013. How are you starting to get ready even now for that centennial?

MUNSON: Actually, a lot of this is still very much in the planning stage. And we're looking for public input and, right now, no specific projects that I know of. Tom probably dealt with some of the higher level stuff. As the historian, I deal with stuff that has already happened a long time ago.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

MUNSON: I am very much the junior mushroom as far as the development of it.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I tell you, that – What, Bob – Maybe you can tell us what this area was like in 1913.

MUNSON: Well, basically, the lighthouse was abandoned in 1891 and it stood abandoned for – right into about the period of 1913. This was a very popular spot. Folks would like to come here and get away from the heat of San Diego in the summertime, enjoy the cool breezes, the beautiful views. Well, the old lighthouse became kind of a focal point and it was vandalized rather badly. The assistant keeper's quarters was completely torn down. So it was in pretty sad shape. Tourists were starting to be brought out here as early as in 1909 that we know of for certain. But it had reached the point where the local military—and it was on Army property at that time—decided this building is more of a nuisance than it is worth anything. People were using it as a latrine and things like that.

CAVANAUGH: Not good.

MUNSON: So about that time a local group called the Sons of Panama decided what we needed was not an old, abandoned lighthouse, what we needed was a monumental Statue of Liberty type statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, and they decided the lighthouse would be a great place to put it. Well, it was Army property. So they approached President Woodrow Wilson and asked to have the lighthouse property made available and the only way he could do that was by a presidential order and he did, which in 1913 created Cabrillo National Monument. It was half an acre and it was to be the site of this monumental statue. Well, before anything could happen, World War I came along and the Army decided this is a great place to have a signal station. After the war, the Army really didn't want to see a statue being built out here so they let a widow live in the place and run a…

CAVANAUGH: In the lighthouse?

MUNSON: In the old lighthouse and run it as kind of a tourist shop, tea shop, gift shop, that sort of thing, and Mrs. Cook lived there until 1934. When with the Depression going, a need to create jobs and an attitude in the National Park Service that we needed to develop this, the lighthouse underwent a total restoration and they did a beautiful job of it. In 1935, we opened as a national monument with a completely restored building.

CAVANAUGH: That's interesting. Let me, if I may, stop you because I'll take – I want to hear the rest of this but I want to take us back just a little bit and talk about the lighthouse when it was actually functioning as a lighthouse. It was a disappointment, wasn't it?

MUNSON: Well, you would think that sitting at 420 feet above sea level, you would be able to see this thing for miles. The only problem is on an average of 88 nights a year, the marine layer is below the level of the light, which means you don't see the light when you need to see it most. So, yeah, it seemed like a great idea at the time but in practical terms it didn't work out that way.

CAVANAUGH: When did it go into operation?

MUNSON: Basically, it went into operation November 15th, 1855.

CAVANAUGH: And what I heard was that it was actually such a poor lighthouse that the keeper would fire a shotgun to try to warn ships when the fog was very dense.

MUNSON: Well, you know, that is a story that has been touted about. We have no concrete evidence that that was ever actually done.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay.

MUNSON: And the problem with it is, if you fired a shotgun up at the lighthouse, you wouldn’t hear it down at the breakers.

CAVANAUGH: I see. I see. So that's one of the myths that surrounded this very foggy lighthouse.

MUNSON: He may have fired the shotgun in hopes that it would do some good but that's burning up a lot of black powder.

CAVANAUGH: We have a caller on the line who wants to talk to us. Jeff is calling from – I guess that's La Mesa. And good morning, Jeff. Welcome to These Days.

JEFF (Caller, La Mesa): Hello?

CAVANAUGH: Yes, hi, Jeff. Welcome to These Days.

JEFF: I can't hear anything. Hello?

CAVANAUGH: Hi, Jeff, can you hear me? Jeff cannot hear me. Well, we'll try to talk to Jeff or another caller soon. But let's take up the story, Bob, from where we were, where I interrupted you and I went back to the foggy lighthouse. So this actually turned into a real functioning national monument at around…

MUNSON: In 1935.

CAVANAUGH: …1935.

MUNSON: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Did it take off right away? Was it very popular right away?

MUNSON: With local folks, yeah. Our visitation was good for the timeframe. We were administered out of King's Canyon, which means we had an incredibly small staff here, basically one man. And he was more of a custodian than a true park ranger. Then, of course, December 7th, 1941, came along and our Army and the navy said, we want our lighthouse back, and they made it a signal station for the duration of the war and the public had no access to it at all. And in 1947, after the war was over, everybody was kind of wondering, well, now what do we do with it?

CAVANAUGH: Right.

MUNSON: And the park service was saying, you know, it's such a small monument and so far out in the middle of nowhere and it's surrounded by the military and the military like having it as a signal station, why don't we just let the military keep it? Well, this didn't go over real big with the citizens of San Diego and there was a very, very strong groundswell push to get the monument reopened. But one of the things that came out of this was a realization if you're going to have a monument out here, it needs to be bigger than half an acre. And so gradually through a series of presidential orders and agreements with the military and so forth, the park expanded from half an acre to over 160.

CAVANAUGH: We are broadcasting from the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma, and I'm speaking with Ranger Bob Munson, who is the park historian. And I wonder, are people surprised when they realize this is part of the National Park Service? Do they equate Park Service with, you know, Yosemite and Yellowstone and that? This is a national monument, which is distinct from that.

MUNSON: Well, basically, we are a national monument which means we were created by presidential order. A national park is created by congressional order. Beyond that, there really is absolutely no administrative difference between the two. As to whether we are viewed as being a national park or monument, if people know we exist, they generally know that we are a national monument. It's kind of amazing the number of folks who don't know we exist even here in San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: Well, we're doing our best today to try to get everybody to realize that you're here at this Cabrillo National Monument. Now I know that you have to go and you have to start conducting your living history tours but I wonder now why is it that the lighthouse is only open to visitors two days a year.

MUNSON: The lighthouse dwelling itself is open every day of the year from 9:00 until 5:00. The problem is the lantern, which is where the lens is, which is the tower, was built 150 years ago and we get close to a million visitors a year here. If we tried to put that many people up in that tower, the damage to the tower and to the gallery would probably destroy it. That's one of the big reasons. The other problem is, this building was never built to have the kind of visitation we get. The lamp room is basically only eight feet in diameter and you've got a three foot in diameter lens sitting in the middle of it. You jam a number of people in there, that irreplaceable lens is going to be damaged.

CAVANAUGH: I see. Is there any chance of doing what they did with the Statue of Liberty and sort of like refurbishing it so it can be open more often?

MUNSON: Right now, that really doesn't seem to be feasible. One of the things that we are talking about is removing the lens. We now have a lens in the assistant keeper's quarters which replicates the kind of lens that was up there. And if we remove the lens one it wouldn't be potentially being damaged and it would create a lot greater space. But this is strictly in just the talking stage at this point.

CAVANAUGH: Because you guys have to get ready for the centennial. There's going to be a lot of people in that place wanting to look at it.

MUNSON: Oh, yeah.

CAVANAUGH: So it's all in the planning stage. I want to thank you so much, Bob Munson, for coming in and speaking with us. I know that you have to usher visitors into the lighthouse, so we'll say goodbye to you right now.

MUNSON: Thank you very much.

CAVANAUGH: I want to remind everyone that we are here talking – we're broadcasting from the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma. We are here to celebrate the National Park Service Founders Day. And joining us now to talk about what there is to see and do at this monument and about the natural world of the monument is Ranger Jason Richards. And welcome, Ranger Richards. Can I call you Jason?

JASON RICHARDS (National Park Service Ranger): I would prefer you call me Jason, yes.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

RICHARDS: Thank you very much. I'm very proud to be here.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for stopping by. I know that this is a busy day for you. I understand that your specialty is, of course, the natural environment here, the Mediterranean coastal sage scrub. Is it a unique environment in California?

RICHARDS: It's a unique environment throughout the world. There are only five places in the world where you find this. So, yeah, super, super interesting and very endangered.

CAVANAUGH: How is it endangered? By what?

RICHARDS: Basically, the encroachment of people. People moving in – into the – it's a great place to live.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, for everybody including those things you don't want.

RICHARDS: Exactly. Yeah, that's why we're this big.

CAVANAUGH: Now can you, for people who aren't familiar with it, describe coastal sage scrub?

RICHARDS: Well, like I said, the coastal sage scrub is found in five places in the world and, of course, that would be two places in Australia, Ecuador, South Africa, the Mediterranean area, obviously, because this is the Mediterranean coastal sage scrub and the Mediterranean climate. And of course California, and it goes all the way from about Ensenada all the way up to San Francisco. It's unique in the fact that the plants are very similar throughout the world, throughout the different areas where it's found. They're aromatic plants. They are plants that go dormant during the dry periods of the time of the year. And then, of course, we do have the evergreens, too, that live here.

CAVANAUGH: And what do they – what does it look like? Can you pick out one or two of the members of this coastal sage and tell us what it looks like?

RICHARDS: Sure. The California sage brush is pretty cool stuff.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

RICHARDS: It's got kind of hairy-looking branches that branch out and they're kind of sharp at the ends, not sharp to where they're going to stick you but kind of sharp pointed looking. And if you rub that between your fingers, it has really a nice aromatic odor, very similar to – well, it definitely is a type of sage. Rosemary, it kind of smells like Rosemary also.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

RICHARDS: And we also have a black sage here and the black sage is a member of the mint family. If you rub the leaves between your fingers, it definitely has a minty smell and a really nice, sweet sage smell to it. And my favorite out of all of them are the – is the lemonade – lemonade berry tree. And lemonade berries are really, really neat. They form these flat little berries that are white when they first start coming out and you can pick these at that time, while they're white, and you put them in your mouth, you don't chew on them…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

RICHARDS: …because they're real woody but they have a very nice sour taste. It's not a unpleasant sour taste at all. It's fun.

CAVANAUGH: And what about the fauna? What about the little critters that live around here?

RICHARDS: We've got a bunch of great critters.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

RICHARDS: And, of course, my favorites are the lizards and I like to – I like to talk about the lizards but we have – we've got different types of mammals. We have carnivores. Our two carnivores that we have in the park would be the grey fox and, of course, the coyote, which is adaptable to any place.

CAVANAUGH: You have a coyote here?

RICHARDS: Absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: Ah.

RICHARDS: And many times I will stop kids and I'll call them over and I'll point out some scat on the ground, which is, of course, coyote poop.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

RICHARDS: And I say, look at this. What do you think did this? And the kids are great. They'll say, what? Because they're all bit by the same bug. Look at it closer. Do you see the hair that's in there? Wow. You think that they must've eaten a rabbit or something.

CAVANAUGH: Ohh…

RICHARDS: And then it kind of dawns on them it was a coyote. That's a lot of fun.

CAVANAUGH: Learning about nature.

RICHARDS: Oh, yeah. It's the greatest thing in the world.

CAVANAUGH: We do have a caller on the line. I think Jeff is back with us from La Mesa. Good morning, Jeff, and welcome to These Days.

JEFF (Caller, La Mesa): I wanted to tell you my childhood memories. At the time when I was a child, we used to – we moved out here in 1959 and every year relatives would come out and visit me and we would go up to the lighthouse to have picnics. And at that point in time, it was just an abandoned building. It was open. We used to run through the house, we'd hide in the closets and, you know, play in the kitchen and things like that. And we would – the lighthouse was open. We would climb all the way to the top. And we would do whale watching from the tower up there and the light was – the lens and everything was still in there. We always thought it was amazing that it had been there that whole time. We also used to hike around the grounds down around the lighthouse and there were embattlements from World War II where they had guns to protect in case the Japanese invaded, and we used to play out on and in those. It was – I'm surprised that we actually got to do that. And it was just really fun childhood memories of, you know, crawling through the embattlements and running up and down the stairs in the lighthouse. And then when they turned it the Cabrillo National Monument, I was actually – I was happy because I knew it was going to be preserved but I was actually also a little sad because we used to actually play in the lighthouse and they stopped doing that. And I just wanted to make that statement or that comment and that's what I was going to say. Thank you very much. 'Bye.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Jeff. Thank you for calling. That's a wonderful memory of having basically this whole area just to yourself, running all around the lighthouse and everything. Jason Richards, I wanted to get back to the idea of this wonderful environment that you oversee here and you introduce people to. I wonder, how are we doing protecting the scrub and the wildlife around it? Should we be doing more?

RICHARDS: Well, actually no because we have a wonderful natural resource staff here that really know what they're doing. And that's part of the natural – of the National Park Service is, we have specialties – different – different people do different things.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

RICHARDS: Different professions. And so our natural resource specialists are – Our head of the natural resource specialists, he is a – has a Ph.D. in marine biology but he protects the whole park. And he hires people that are herpetologists and botanists, and we're doing a lot to protect this park and to improve it.

CAVANAUGH: And I want to talk about the tide pools because they're really quite extensive and quite amazing. Tell us a little bit about them and what they include.

RICHARDS: Well, the tide pools is actually, it's a misnomer. It is a rocky intertidal area.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, please, yeah. Okay.

RICHARDS: That's what it should be called.

CAVANAUGH: Intertidal.

RICHARDS: Rocky intertidal area. However, 99% of the people are not going to know what you're talking about so we'll refer to them as tide pools in this case. And there are two high tides and two low tides every day. The bad part about it is during the summertime all of the good low tides are in the wee morning hours or at night. So we have many people that want to visit the tide pools and there aren't any tide pools because they're covered up with water. And during the wintertime, of course, we've got some excellent tide pools. There are, oh, so many things. We've got shellfish, different kinds of shellfish, different types of limpets. The keyhole limpet is my favorite. It's a very big limpet. It's about four inches across and has a big, fleshy foot on it and crawls around. It's got this hole right in the center which is like a keyhole. We have lobsters in the tidepools, octopus, different types of fish, the opaleyes and the wooly sculpins. Occasionally, you see garibaldi, not very often. Of course, that's the state fish of California. Different types of kelps and different types of algaes. It's just a wonderful place. Also a lot of starfish, too.

CAVANAUGH: Sure.

RICHARDS: That's usually everybody's favorite are starfish. The sea stars, we don't see very many sea stars because we don't have a lot of mussels and that's what they eat is mussels.

CAVANAUGH: Now, are you leading one of the trail walks today?

RICHARDS: I am. I'm leading the coastal sage scrub trail walk.

CAVANAUGH: And what will visitors see there? Some of the things that you've been describing to us?

RICHARDS: Well, exactly. I'll show them all the plants, and I go into the uses of these plants that the Kumeyaay Indians used to use also. So I'll – I will show them the plants and this time of year it's so hard to show them the really true plants because everything's dried up.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

RICHARDS: But I go into the different uses and then I show them the lizards and the different types of lizards we have. Occasionally, we are very lucky, we get to see a snake. And 90% of the time those snakes that we do see are rattlesnakes. We have the Pacific Coast Rattlesnake up here too. I point out bird nests, different types of birds that we have. We have a little bushtit, which is one of those birds that actually waves a – weaves a kind of a hanging bird nest. There are only about three different birds in the world that do that. It's pretty cool.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

RICHARDS: And we have one of them here, little tiny birds. But we end up at a military history bunker and, of course, I'm not a history person but I do take them in there to show them the sixty-inch World War II searchlight that's still there.

CAVANAUGH: I get the feeling that probably the kids are your favorite visitors.

RICHARDS: I love kids. They're a lot of fun.

CAVANAUGH: And what…

RICHARDS: But when I can spark the interest to an adult, to me that's the best.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, really?

RICHARDS: Oh, absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: And what kind of reaction do you get from people when they go around here and they discover these things?

RICHARDS: Different from different people but the neatest part is the people that are from San Diego, I've lived here my whole life, I didn't know this was here. I had no idea what these plants were. So, yeah, that's – that's my most favorite is dealing with the – with people where I can spark an interest on them.

CAVANAUGH: Does Founders Day get crazy?

RICHARDS: It – This is the first crazy one we've had.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, really?

RICHARDS: Yeah, I like it. I like it.

CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you before I let you go, you know, you told me that the sage and much of the flora and the fauna is being looked after really well, I wonder if the tide pools, though, are in danger from climate change? How are you monitoring that?

RICHARDS: We are monitoring that. Of course, we monitor that through the tide charts and if they're higher than normal, of course, that's unusual. The – As far as global warming goes, that's not the worst thing that we're worried about for the tide pools. The numbers of people that visit – We love them when they come here…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

RICHARDS: …because we want to share this resource with them. We want to share the knowledge with them. But they do get trampled quite a bit down there.

CAVANAUGH: That's a hard balance to maintain.

RICHARDS: Yes, it is.

CAVANAUGH: Wanting people to know about this and yet at the same time protecting it.

RICHARDS: Absolutely. Absolutely. But where else can you go in such a beautiful huge city and come down and see nature like that?

CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us and sort of introducing us to all the wonders, the natural wonders that are at this monument. Thank you so much.

RICHARDS: You're quite welcome. And be sure and tell them that I do these hikes for the public on the weekends and I'd love to have them come out.

CAVANAUGH: I certainly will. That is Ranger Jason Richards. Earlier we spoke with Ranger Bob Munson. Now stay with us for the second hour of These Days. We are broadcasting from the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma. And you are listening to KPBS.

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