In the 1980s, when California was gripped by a recession and severe budget crunch, the state Department of Parks and Recreation lacked enough money to properly maintain the steep, five-mile access road to Hearst Castle.
So a group of area business people and residents, fearing that the road’s deep potholes and ruts could cause a catastrophic accident for tour buses, formed the Hearst Castle Citizens Committee to raise money for the road and other maintenance.
Ultimately, the state found money to repair the road.
But instead of disbanding, the group raised money for artifact restoration. In doing so, they created a blueprint for the dozens of partnerships and hundreds of individual volunteers whose work is once again crucial to maintaining the state’s prized parks.
The committee eventually grew into Friends of Hearst Castle, a nonprofit organization that has restored night lighting to the hilltop estate and provided money for artifact conservation as well as educational, interpretive and art programs.
Friends of Hearst Castle also hosts several high-visibility, high-ticket annual fundraising events, including a December holiday dinner in the Castle’s refectory (dining hall). In addition to contributing about $500,000 for outdoor lights that made nighttime events and tours possible, the group has raised $3 million, mostly in the past 15 years, said Hoyt Fields, museum director at Hearst Castle.
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