Around Del Norte: A gift to parks

By Laura Wiens, The Triplicate February 05, 2013 02:06 pm

Director Cathy Bonser, left, Dutra’s Harry Stewart and Board Chairwoman Martha McClure.
Director Cathy Bonser, left, Dutra’s Harry Stewart and Board Chairwoman Martha McClure. Courtesy F.L. Hiser Jr.
A gift to the parks

Have you ever wondered who runs the visitor centers and gift shops for the fantastic parks in Del Norte and Humboldt counties?

You may see park employees behind the counters in Crescent City, Hiouchi, Gasquet, Tolowa Dunes and down south, but these facilities wouldn’t exist without the partnership that the state and national parks and the U.S. Forest Service have with the Redwood Parks Association.

The nonprofit organization’s mission is to foster understanding, enjoyment, and stewardship of Northern California’s public lands. Sales at the visitor centers, online sales, memberships, and special events such as the annual Candlelight Walk down at Prairie Creek Redwoods generate money for interpretive facilities such as visitor centers, improvement of interpretive programs and equipment, design and construction of exhibits, displays, training opportunities, and publications of informative pamphlets, park maps, and brochures.

So when an organization makes a $5,000 donation to the Redwood Parks Association, we all benefit. That’s exactly what was done by The Dutra Group, the company overseeing the reconstruction of Crescent City Harbor.

On Thursday, Dutra’s chief operating officer, Harry Stewart, met up with the association’s executive director, Cathy Bonser, and its board chairwoman, Martha McClure, at the parks’ Crescent City Visitors Center.

“The contribution came at such a wonderful time,” said Bonser, adding the money will be used to help keep the Mill Creek acquisition open in the money-challenged Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.

You know the place. It includes not only the well-used campground, but also some of the very best hiking trails through the redwoods such as Hobbs Wall Creek. It was placed on a closure list recently by the state, but is kept open for now through a partnership between the state parks and the National Park Service. The donation goes straight into a fund to keep the park open.

“Nobody wants to give grants to something that’s not open,” Bonser said.

Stewart probably enjoyed the chance to think about something besides the intensive harbour reconstruction that Dutra is heading up.

“We recognize the importance of (local) projects,” Stewart said. “That’s why we hire as local as we can,” he said of Dutra’s harbor work.

Bonser, by the way, used to work for the parks, and said she is enjoying making visitors’ experiences more complete.

“People don’t care if it’s national or state (parks), they just want to be in the redwoods,” she said.

You can learn about how to donate to or even join the association – those member discounts come in handy for merchandise at the visitor centers – by going to

The Ormande family days before coming to America from Portugal, from left: Manuela, Maria, Frank, Manuel and Maria.
The Ormande family days before coming to America from Portugal, from left: Manuela, Maria, Frank, Manuel and Maria. Submitted
From Portugal, with love

Portuguese pride will be on display at Saturday’s Portuguese Community Valentine Dinner at St. Joseph Parish Hall, and few are prouder than dinner organizer Frank Ormonde.

He’s pretty proud of America, too. In fact, he can tell you when he got here – Nov. 27, 1968, at 11:45 p.m.

“I’ll never forget it,” said Ormonde. “It was like walking into ‘Star Wars.’ We (in Portugal) were 50 years behind.”

Del Norte’s Portuguese don’t let go of their roots. Seven or eight families organize Portuguese church functions for Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and most especially the community dinner.

“Family’s everything, it’s survival,” said Ormonde. “We all came here with nothing. Everything we have, we got it here, so we like giving back.”

Dinner proceeds will go toward construction of ADA-approved rest rooms in the church’s Parish Hall.

For more information about the dinners served from 6 to 7:30 and 7:30 to 9, call 464-9529.

Heroic in Hiouchi

Malea Simms of Hiouchi isn’t sure she’d still be around if not for the recent actions of her 5-year-old daughter, Tatiana.

When Malea suffered an epileptic seizure at their home, Tatiana saw what was happening and quickly dialled 911, saying, “Please come here now.”

Tatiana had been trained in how to call for help and what her address was, but this was the first time she had to act on that knowledge. After her mother was stabilized at the hospital, she even got a stuffed blue monkey out of the deal.

“I was so blessed and proud of her,” Malea said. “She is my hero.”

Once a tour guide …

An article in the January edition of MotorHome Magazine provided some nice national publicity for Del Norte in general and Aaron Funk’s Kamp Klamath RV Park and FunBus tours in particular.

It also revealed a bit about his pre-Klamath days:

“Funk spent several years in Baja, California, where he did his own research and excavation work, sometimes venturing for days at a time deep into the mountains on mule-back.

“He subsequently bought a 22-room hotel in downtown Mulege and honed his skills as a tour guide by taking busloads of American tourists into the mountains where they could venture into caves along Baja’s only all-year stream and see ancient Cochimi pictographs.”

Later, Funk owned a 55-room resort in Ensenada before concluding his Mexican adventures and heading up our way, the article states.

“If you happen to visit with him at Kamp Klamath, as we did,” the article states, “you’ll hear him talk about everything from the history of the redwoods to the latest Bigfoot sightings, with the intensity and enthusiasm of a young boy reading his first book on dinosaurs.”

Reach Laura Wiens at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it