When California’s state-park crisis hit in 2011, businessman Andrew Vought was shocked to find that Portola Redwoods State Park was slated for closure. “I couldn’t let that happen,” he said.
Vought had long enjoyed hiking and camping at the park, just a 45-minute drive from his home in Palo Alto. “It has beautiful camping spots deep in the old-growth redwood forest,” he said. “It feels like there’s a Hobbit on the other side of the trees.”
Having retired from a career in the semiconductor industry a few months earlier, Vought decided his new mission was to figure out how to keep Portola Redwoods open. “I’m a startup guy,” he said. “I know how to use time efficiently and make companies successful, starting with zero resources.”
So Vought joined the board of the Portola and Castle Rock Foundation and began looking for allies in other organizations. Among those he contacted were Save the Redwoods League and Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). “We decided that, at the very least, we wanted to figure out how to run the park better,” Vought said. Now Vought is also a member of the League’s Board of Directors.
In the end, the three groups committed $60,000 to fill the gap in Portola Redwoods’ operating budget for one year. The Foundation bolstered the ranks of the park’s volunteers and Save the Redwoods League and POST contributed an additional $40,000 for capital improvements.
“People put their money and their energy out there,” said Vought, who is now President of the Foundation. “The state parks crisis has really gotten Californians to stand up and say that parks are important.”