Monterey County

Locals celebrate national park system's 100th birthday

The National Park Service is celebrated in Soledad

SOLEDAD, Calif. - Caesar Chavez Park in Soledad was filled with community members and leaders, all celebrating the national park service turning 100-years-old.

"These parks were created to preserve places where we can go to reconnect with nature and explore ourselves as well," said Jennifer Westphal, Executive Director of Pinnacles Partnership.

Located about ten miles away from Soledad, Pinnacles National Monument was set aside in 1908 by President Teddy Roosevelt. With the help of congressmen Sam Farr, it became a national park in 2013.

"This is the 59th national park," said Farr. "That means in the history of the United States in the last 100 years there's only been 59 of them. I'm very proud that I was able to make the last one."

City officials said the title of national park has put Soledad on the map.

"All these people that had never knew where Soledad was said oh that's where the Pinnacles is now," said Soledad Mayor Fred Ledesma. "Look at our signs, it says we're the gateway to the Pinnacles so we might as well stop and see how you get to the Pinnacles."

The park has also had a big economic impact on the city, also known as The Gateway to the Pinnacles.

"We're really just touching the surface, but we've already talked to some of the local restaurants, bakeries that are just gushing about the number of the people now that are starting to show up into the community," said Ledesma.

"We no longer just get Bay Area residents," said Pinnacles National Park Chief Ranger Jan Lemons. "We get residents from across the nation and international."

City leaders said it doesn't stop there, more tourist opportunities are in the works.

"Doing agriculture tourism, wine tasting, historical tourism, culinary tourism," said Farr.

Fourth graders, active duty military and seniors are eligible for reduced or free admission to Pinnacles.

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