Planning and fundraising are under way for an Interpretive Center in the Marsh Creek State Historic Park in Brentwood.
At 3,700 acres, the MCSHP is the largest historic park in California. At its center is the 7,000 square-foot Stone House built in 1856 by pioneer doctor John Marsh, the first to practice modern medicine in California and the first American settler in Contra Costa County. Plans for the park include 70 miles of trails, 200 camping and day-use sites, RV and equestrian facilities and two visitor centers. A 7,000-year-old archaeology site sits next to the house.
But a lack of funding has prevented the park’s amenities from being developed, and the park is not yet open to the public.
“The value of this park is tremendous,” said Executive Director Rick Lemyre of the John Marsh Historic Trust. “Our goal is to deliver that value as much as possible until the entire park can be opened. The Interpretive Center is key to that goal.”
Since becoming a Cooperating Association 2014, the Trust has hosted hundreds of local elementary students on educational field trips, taken hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts on hikes in the park, and brought thousands of visitors to the park for an annual Heritage Day event in October.
“The lack of facilities has made it difficult to host, let alone expand, these programs,” Lemyre said. “The Center will also allow us to open the Park to public drop-in visits for the first time.”
State Parks has begun planning for the center, which will consist of a shade structure, picnic tables, restrooms, parking and informational panels.
The Trust is working with the Brentwood Union School District on a curriculum for 4th-grade students studying California history. Currently, students travel to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento for the kind of experiential learning that will be available right in their back yard at the MCSHP.
The Trust has begun a drive to raise $90,000 for construction of the new Center, as well as educational materials and programming.
The Trust was established in 1994 to save and restore the Stone House. Last year marked the completion of the most recent stabilization phase. Major funding for the work has come from the California Cultural and Historic Endowment, the City of Brentwood, the Cowell Foundation and the Trust.
The house became part of the State Park system in 2012, and the Trust expanded its mission to benefit the park as a whole in 2014. The Trust is a 501(c)3 non-profit.
“We’ve already received significant donations from Shea Homes and the Byron Anonymous Givers Foundation,” Lemyre said. “Our supporters have boosted the total to more than $15,000. We’re building momentum, and hope to complete the fundraising as soon as we can so construction can begin.”
To make a donation, click the PayPal button at the top of this page. To learn more about the Trust, the Interpretive Center or the park, contact Lemyre at 925-286-4591.