About the Mount San Jacinto Natural History Association

The Mount San Jacinto Natural History Association (NHA) is a non-profit corporation with tax-exempt status that is governed by an elected seven-member board of directors. It also operates under contract with California’s Department of Parks and Recreation as a cooperating association. Its mission is to:

  • promote the educational and interpretive activities of California State Parks, principally in Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness;
  • produce and make available to park visitors, by sale or free distribution, suitable interpretive and educational literature and materials, including books, maps, pamphlets, fuel wood, visual aids and recordings;
  • acquire display materials or objects pertaining to the cultural and natural history of the area for the purpose of adding them to the interpretive collections of the State Park System;
  • develop and maintain a suitable park library for the Long Valley and Idyllwild ranger stations;
  • assist financially and otherwise in the establishment and operation of similar cooperating association within the Mount San Jacinto State Park;
  • give all possible aid to California State Parks for the benefit of the people.

The Mount San Jacinto Natural History Association (NHA) was established in May 1979, by a dedicated group of people interested in improving the educational and interpretive opportunities of those who visit Mount San Jacinto State Park. The same individuals were also volunteers for the State Park and worked out of the Long Valley Ranger Station. At this time there was little distinction between the volunteer group and the NHA. In 1987, a State Park Visitor Center was set up on the bottom floor of the Mountain Tram Station. Members of the NHA were instrumental in planning this center with the approval of Mount San Jacinto State Park’s superintendent. The NHA also provided funds to supplement the state’s Volunteer Enhancement Funds and other money was used to establish and upgrade displays in the Visitor Center. About this same time (1989), a second volunteer group was formed—the Volunteer Patrol. This group assisted the rangers in patrolling the wilderness trails and in conducting rescues while the NHA’s efforts were involved with staffing the Visitor Center and conducting nature walks.

The NHA was vital to the rangers by providing trained volunteers to help them, under the direction of the supervising ranger, or Cooperating Association Liaison representative. Part of the NHA’s support to the State Park was to hire a part-time employee who assisted in staffing the Visitor Center, maintained inventory and completed necessary State Park paperwork.

The NHA had, and still has, a contractual relationship with the Department of Parks and Recreation. However, over the years the nature of this relationship has evolved. Since NHA’s inception the State Park has brought out two policy manuals that have redefined the State Park’s relationship with Cooperating Associations throughout California.

The first of these is the Volunteers in Parks Program Guidelines (VIP) that sets the guidelines under which volunteers work in state parks. By doing this, the state has taken on the liability that is involved in such a program; a liability that the NHA could not financially handle. This is why volunteers complete the State Park papers and are covered under Worker’s Compensation through the state government. A copy of the manual explaining this program is available in the State Park/NHA office in the Mountain Station.

The other manual is the Cooperating Associations Handbook that is a guideline for the relationship between the State Park and the NHA. The actual relationship is set out in the State Park-NHA contract. Under this agreement, the NHA raises money in order to support the interpretive efforts of the State Park. This money is raised through the sale of educational and/or interpretive publications and materials at the Visitor Center, Long Valley Ranger Station and Idyllwild Ranger Station, and through membership dues and donations. Members of the NHA are not necessarily volunteers, nor are volunteers required to be NHA members. Both groups include people who are interested in maintaining the Wilderness quality of Mount San Jacinto State Park and having that quality interpreted to the public.

While NHA Board members still take an active part in training activities for volunteers, they do so as volunteers of the State Park. The NHA supplies the funds needed to conduct these activities.

All volunteers are encouraged to become members of the NHA and further show their support for Mount San Jacinto State Park & Wilderness. All members are encouraged to attend the monthly NHA Board meetings, the Annual General meeting, and to become involved in NHA projects such as developing membership and the newsletter. Any person who is interested in obtaining information about the NHA is encouraged to contact a Board member.