Pleasanton Weekly

News - November 26, 2010

Renovations complete on historic Mount Diablo building

Grand reopening being held for public Dec. 4

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

As the two inches of weekend snow slowly melts away, Mt. Diablo State Park celebrates the renovation of the Summit Visitor Center.

The project included adding new exhibits and better access to the visitor information, and the public is invited to a grand reopening event from noon-4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4.

"All of the exhibits will be open," said Steve Elliott, docent manager. "We have new videos and a computer terminal to do a virtual tour of the park."

The Summit Visitor Center, located at the top of the 3,849-foot mountain, was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1940s and is recognized as a National Historic Landmark. It is built from fossil-laden sandstone quarried in the park.

"When doing a renovation everything gets a close review," Elliott noted. "It's important that it comes across symbolic of historic times."

Mt. Diablo State Park is most popular in the spring, said Elliott, when the wildflowers are in bloom. Visitors also flock to the mountain to see the tarantulas in the fall, when the males migrate in search of mates. In the wintertime, the big draw is snow.

"Even the two inches they had yesterday attracted a load of people," Elliott said Monday. "Then this morning people were making snowmen out in the parking lot, about 10 o'clock."

The renovated Summit Visitor Center will have its new electric fireplace lit all winter, Elliott promised. It also has a reading nook with a stack of kids books, as well as new hands-on exhibits about the history, geology and flora and fauna of Mount Diablo.

"The inside has been renovated to the craftsman style matching the era of when the visitor center was built," said Park Superintendent Roland Gaebert.

The renovation was funded by the California Department of Parks and Recreation through deferred maintenance funds allocated to the park in 2008. In addition to the exhibit renovation, the Mt. Diablo Interpretive Association (MDIA) raised more than $28,000 from individuals and corporate donors. This funding added new visitor information facilities and visuals.

The navigation beacon on top of the center dates from 1928 when it was installed on top of the mountain to assist with the early days of commercial air travel to San Francisco. Each year veterans gather at the center Dec. 7 to light the beacon for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

"We light the beacon at dusk at the rotunda," Elliott said. "I like to do it outside but it depends on the weather. Last year we had really bad weather and had to cancel."

Visitors with disabilities who need assistance to visit the Summit Visitor Center should call the park office at 673-2891 in advance. For more information and virtual tours of the park, go to mdia.org.

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