Activist Dave Van de Mark shares memories about his friend Lucille Vinyard, who helped lead the fight for Redwood National Park.
I first met Lucille and Bill Vinyard at a Sierra Club meeting and was invited to their home. On that first visit, I got a rousing pep talk from Lucille about getting involved in establishing a redwood national park. Minute rice takes longer to make than it took to create a lasting friendship! She was so warm, gracious, super friendly, totally disarming, and a delightful storyteller with a curiosity about everything around her. Plus, there was something new and serious in the air she had to tell me all about: if there was ever going to be a great redwood national park, it better happen soon.
Further visits brought clarity regarding Lucille’s character—her integrity, honesty, drive, determination, persistence, and just good old-fashioned savvy. Those were the foundations that made this woman ready to take on anything. And, oh my goodness! She was just so dynamically magnetic in those days. Everyone wanted to make their way to meet her—kind of like iron filings to that magnet.
The Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the National Parks Association, and National Geographic all came to her. They recognized her leadership qualities and sought her assistance for the difficult task of generating local support for a park.
And newspapers, magazines, and TV stations had to come, too, and Lucille’s place was where the action was. Their home was nothing if not informal. I recall an eastern newspaperman, more conditioned to staid levels of decorum, being invited to just spend the night there rather than head off to a motel. The next morning, there he was, walking around in his under shorts taking notes!
Life at the Vinyards’ during the redwood park battle was indeed special. But if you were looking for relaxation, that wasn’t the place to go! From late 1964 to October 1968, the intensity of that endeavor sapped all our energy to near exhaustion. I credit Lucille’s remarkable composure and focus for keeping us all going.
Never were Lucille’s qualities of determination and persistence more evident than during the 10 years it took to expand Redwood National Park. At the park’s dedication, we had to listen to some folks tell us, “This is all you get, you have your park—now go home and shut up!” Lucille and others in the newly formed Emerald Creek Committee ignored that lousy advice and didn’t stop till we got what was right. Sadly, we lost some beautiful forest adjacent to the park before Congress acted again.
When it was finally over, Lucille and I were awarded the Sierra Club’s second highest honor—the Special Achievement Award—for our 13 years of redwood efforts and also wilderness preservation work. It was all due to Lucille that I shared these incredible experiences.