When they read about a proposal in the middle of the last decade to build a six-lane toll road through San Onofre State Park in Orange County, California, documentary filmmakers David Vassar and Sally Kaplan set out to produce a film showcasing “the priceless legacy that state parks protect and to celebrate the individual citizens who worked so hard to preserve them.” California Forever, a two-part documentary originated from this inspiration. The first film (75 minutes) depicts the history California’s state parks, beginning in Yosemite in 1864, while the second (60 minutes) features parks that typify challenges faced by all 278 parks in the California system.
Vassar and Kaplan, principals in the Ventura, California-based Backcountry Pictures, have many park-themed documentaries to their credit, including films on Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks. Park professionals and advocates alike will find much to appreciate and learn from in these two beautiful films on California’s parks. As some observers of the state’s park funding crisis have noted, “So goes California, so goes the country.” If overcrowding, encroachment by development and budget cuts could jeopardize California’s magnificent park system, then it can happen anywhere in the country. In September PBS will air TV adaptations of the two documentaries through its affiliate stations.