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11 Questions for Ranger Frank
of the Placerita Nature Center
March, 2008 - Issue #41
Ranger Frank Hoffman
Ranger Frank Hoffman
One of the best hikes in town is at the Placerita Nature Center. At the Center, visitors can stroll around the 350-plus acres and experience the natural wonder of Santa Clarita. Trails are open to people of all ages and they are accessible for both strollers and wheelchairs. You can also bring your dogs as long as they stay on leash. There is a natural history museum on-site, live animal exhibits and moonlight hikes. The Center also hosts an Astronomy Club, Junior Rangers and summer camp for the kids. Historically, the Center is also the place to find the Oak of the Golden Dream. This is the spot where gold was first discovered in California.

Frank Hoffman is the recreation services supervisor and education director. Hoffman (or Ranger Frank, as he is affectionately known) has a passion for nature and the environment and he loves to share it with anyone who comes to the park. Hoffman was married at the Nature Center and he lives in Canyon Country with his wife Mary and step-daughter Melissa.

1. Are the trails at the Nature Center for beginners? There are 12 and a half miles of hiking trails from beginner to intermediate and advanced.

2. Can we take anything home with us? Do not pick the flowers. All the plants are protected. This is a food source for the animals. You can't even take branches off the ground. We are going to see a lot of new foliage in the spring this year because of the fires and now the rain. Sunlight has been able to get through to the woodland floors and canyons. It should be beautiful.

3. Will hikers run into any wild animals on the trails? Most likely you will see wild birds. The chances of mammal sightings are rare but possible from the grey fox to the native grey squirrel. We've had bobcats at certain times and we are seeing deer mostly in the flatlands and meadows eating the grass. We say enjoy the view and use extreme care and caution. Never feed or back the wild animals into a defensive situation.

4. Is this a popular site for school
children?
We see about 20,000 school kids a year. During the school year we lead them on an hour hike and then we have an interactive animal show. Schools can book reservations right on our website. We also welcome the home-schooled children. I can offer this program year-round.

5. What other programs do you offer for children? We also have a Junior Ranger Program for boys and girls ages 8 to 14. It's like an outdoor survival program for children. Every month we focus on a different subject. Mine is a common sense approach and we'll talk about fires and floods and how they are a natural occurrence or we learn about endangered species and their habitats and how we can help protect these animals.

6. What kind of programs do you have for the non-hiker? We have a year-round program - Beginning Birders - for those 10 years and up. It's a program about our feathered friends and we study different birds, learn how to keep accurate records and notes on bird watching, and learn bird etiquette. We also have animal exhibits, an astronomy club and natural history museum.

7. We hear the Center comes to life at night. We have moonlight hikes and we are starting our Night Owl Cinema on March 8. We will be showing programs from the Planet Earth series and Animal Planet. Shows will begin at twilight and we will start each one with a cartoon. Night Owl Cinema is free and there are people who donate popcorn and drinks. This is all weather permitting, so call the Nature Center for more details.

8. Is it true that gold was discovered in Placerita Canyon before Sutter's Mill? It's State Historic Marker #168. Gold was discovered in 1842 under the Oak of the Golden Dream. We lead hikes to the site.
I have two goals here: One is to let everyone know that snakes have bones and the other is to inform people that gold was discovered here before Sutter's Mill.

9. What about the Walker Cabin? It was built by Frank Walker in 1920 and it's my understanding that the family lived here during the winter months. We are using some of our renovation funds to restore the cabin.

10. Why do you feel you have the best job in the world? I am very fortunate to be here, working outdoors and with a great team, from our superintendent to our supervisor. Mike Antonovich has been very supportive of this facility and I want to thank him for this funding for our construction projects. I love sharing my passion, which was handed down to me from my mom, to the schoolchildren and all the visitors at the park.

11. What's up with all the construction?
Placerita Nature Center was dedicated in 1971. We are renovating the entire Nature Center from the roof to heating and air-conditioning to our bridge, adding square footage and bringing everything up to code. We are the very first county facility that I am aware of that is going green. All of our cleaning products and tools will be made from recycled material and earth friendly. State bond money is being used for this project. We have a very popular summer camp, but right now we are in the middle of construction and renovation so we might have to change our program up a bit.

Placerita Nature Center is located at 19152 Placerita Canyon Road, Newhall approximately 1.5 miles east of
Highway 14. For more information log on to www.placerita.org or call at 259-7721.
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