Meet the heroes of the Back Ranch Meadows kiosk

by Sheila Coll

On sunny weekends, there’s a near constant stream of visitors entering the park at Back Ranch Meadows, the western gateway to China Camp’s trail network and campground. Everything from serious mountain bikers to parents with kids in tow flash their passes to “rangers” in the entrance kiosk, or stop to check in for camping, ask for trail ideas, buy a pass, or get other tips for visiting the park.

Ever since the pandemic struck in early 2020, our “rangers”—actually Friends of China Camp volunteers and camp hosts—have been busier than ever. Throughout the health crisis, our park remained at least partially open, providing essential recreational opportunities for all.

As a result, China Camp saw record visitation in 2020, including first-timers. The park could not have met the needs of this new wave of visitors if it not for our passionate crew of Back Ranch Meadows kiosk volunteers and camp hosts.

And they’re still going strong. Not only does our Back Ranch Bunch help orient visitors, they also help them pay park fees and purchase annual passes. This important responsibility has played a significant role in boosting Friends of China Camp’s operating revenue. In fact, more than twice as many memberships were purchased in 2020 compared to 2019.

As Friends of China Camp’s Executive Director Martin Lowenstein states: “Our kiosk volunteers have been key to enhancing the visitor experience. We are eternally grateful for what they do.”

Hats off to this dedicated crew, which continues to staff our kiosk with smiles. Thank you, Back Ranch Bunch, for all you do. Let’s meet them–clockwise in the grid, above:

Diane Kay, Volunteer (top left): “Working in the kiosk is a joy because park users are so appreciative. They often say ‘thanks for volunteering.’ I get to be in a beautiful location and do my part to ensure that China Camp thrives.”

Gail MacMillan, Volunteer (top center): “Well, how could I not want to work in the kiosk, where I can birdwatch for hours, take money from people I don’t know while wearing a mask, and show off my tattoo!”(Gail has a quirky sense of humor…) “But…my joy is raised in the early morning because of our wonderful visitors who share the excitement of their trekking, which I really can’t keep up with anymore. Hurrah and thanks to you!”

Fran Stahl, Camp Host (top right): “I enjoy the serenity of the park and the interactions with the visitors.”

Marlo Silver & Mark Peachock, Camp Hosts (center row): “Marlo and I love the trails, the views, and the visitors who enjoy the park almost as much as we do! Plus, we get to try out new comedy material when interacting with them. (They’re usually an easy crowd.)”

Lucinda Colberg, Volunteer (bottom right): “My favorite part of working in the kiosk at Back Ranch is welcoming people new to the park–giving directions, explaining the various options for hiking or biking, key points of interest, and, most of all, sharing the rich history of China Camp State Park. There’s always a smile and a thank you and many times they stop back on their way out the gate to share the highlights of their day.”

Joanne Giffra, Volunteer (bottom center): Playing dual roles as China Camp’s volunteer bookkeeper and kiosk volunteer, Joanne also gets to see her hard work in the kiosk reflected in the back end of the park’s accounting. Joanne is also an avid outdoor enthusiast, so she’s a great resource for helping folks plan their hikes and activities.

Harriot Manley, Volunteer (bottom left): “It’s kind of a no-brainer to work in the kiosk: people are happy to be at the park. They appreciate that you can help them get passes, find trails, and check in for camping. When it’s not busy, I get to look across a thriving tidal marsh and see egrets, deer, ospreys, and whatever else wanders or flies by. Not bad.”

Check out how you can volunteer at China Camp.

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