On Feb. 1, the innovative Berns Environmental Study Loop (ESL) opened at Crystal Cove State Park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by Crystal Cove Alliance (CCA) and officiated by Major General Anthony Jackson, Director of California State Parks.

Dana Hills High School students use trapcams to study bobcat movement at the Berns Environmental Stu ...

Dana Hills High School students use trapcams to study bobcat movement at the Berns Environmental Study Loop at Crystal Cove State Park, a new ‘citizen science’ approach funded by Crystal Cove Alliance. (Photo: Business Wire)

Part of a 35-acre restoration, the ESL features an amphitheater, fire pit, student staging pavilion and half-mile loop trail with eight mini “citizen science” stations. Teachers and students can enjoy field trips as part of the park’s “research and monitoring” team, while general park visitors can participate in campfire programs, junior ranger courses and guided study walks, all with a citizen science component.

The ESL is a place where Braille Institute students use heightened listening skills to monitor threatened bird populations, where local fifth graders can work alongside University of California Irvine scientists studying water’s role in the park’s ecosystem and where Dana Hills High School students deploy special research cameras to study bobcat movement.

“The citizen science programs address the national STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) literacy crisis with unique programs that immerse students in the science behind park management,” explained Harry Helling, President of CCA. “Since California has 280 parks that preserve vast amounts of natural resources, this approach has the potential to strengthen the relationship statewide between State Parks and students.”

The public-private partnership between California State Parks and CCA allowed for innovation which, in turn attracted a $1M donation from private funds—the largest ever for education in a State Park—to fund capital costs and, another first, establish a supporting endowment. With this new model comes the possibility for broader outcomes to simultaneously address future conservation and education needs.

About Crystal Cove Alliance

Crystal Cove Alliance (CCA), the official nonprofit partner of Crystal Cove State Park, is dedicated to preserving the cultural, natural and historic resources of Crystal Cove. Founded in 1999 by Laura Davick to stop a planned luxury resort from overtaking the area, CCA rescued the historic site and initiated one of the most successful public-private partnership models in the history of the California State Park system.


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