Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Urusla Esser, ABF Development Director 

Anza-Borrego Foundation Vision 2020


Last updated 7/6/2020 at 1:55pm

Ernie Cowan

The Anza-Borrego Foundation (ABF), official partner of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, is undertaking an unprecedented campaign and series of events in coming weeks to ensure it can continue to assist the Park and protect it and the surrounding area.

Closure of the Park and ABF's State Park Stores in response to the coronavirus had sharply reduced income that sustained ABF and provided assistance and services to the Park. Close supporters of ABF, however, responded generously and a campaign entitled "Vision 20/20 Match Challenge" seeks to build on the success of that earlier fundraising.

Members of ABF's Century Circle, its most generous benefactors, and members of ABF's Board of Trustees together donated or pledged more than $75,000 to ABF in recent weeks.

ABF is now asking members and Park supporters to match that amount by July 15, providing a total of $150,000 for ABF operations and Park assistance as ABF enters a new fiscal year.

"The early generosity of those relatively few donors inspired us to reach out to our wider membership and others," Bri Fordem, Executive Director of ABF, said. "When the Park can open and ABF can renew its level of support and activities, we want to be able to do so quickly and to the full extent possible."

ABF is also sponsoring a series of virtual "Campfire Chats," in which people can view former Park rangers or superintendents discuss Park-related topics and answer questions, from different areas of the Park. The chats can be viewed at Former Park Superintendent Dave Van Cleve led off the series last Friday on the topic of land conservation, and Bob Theriault, former State Parks ranger, spoke the next day about birding.

Upcoming Campfire Chats (see graphic for schedule) feature discussion of palm oases, the military's activities in the area during World War II, and the Park's iconic desert bighorn sheep.

Kathy Dice, former Park Superintendent, is to talk about native palm oases. Among the questions she will address, Dice said, are "Why are the native palm oases there? Who and what lives there or lived there in the past? What secrets do they hold? What can we do to promote their health and longevity?"

The U.S. military was active in the Park 1942 – 45. Fred Jee, former Supervising Ranger, will talk about the units that participated, what they did, and effects of that activity that remain evident.

Always active in the Park are desert bighorn sheep, which former Park Superintendent Mark Jorgensen has been studying in Anza-Borrego since 1967. His program, he said, "will help enlighten folks on the natural history of this magnificent animal and describe how important the Endangered Species Act has been to its recovery in the Peninsular Ranges."

Videos of all the chats will be available on the ABF website, http://www.theabforg.

ABF hopes to raise $2,000 during each Campfire Chat. Participants in the chats will have the opportunity to make donations online to ABF, with various Park-related books available as incentive.

Rounding out this early summer series of events and activities will be a presentation Friday July 3, by Vanessa Rusczyk, a San Diego artist who specializes in paintings of native flora and landscapes of the West, followed on Saturday, July 11, by a reception and live auction of a painting donated by her (shown here), to be held at La Casa del Zorro. The presentation on July 3 will be live streamed 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and will be accessible through the ABF website.

Rusczyk is a native of New Mexico and a particular fan of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The Park "is one of my greatest sources of joy and inspiration," she says on her website. "One of my favorite drives is from suburban San Diego County east to the Anza-Borrego Desert. I love that first glimpse of the vast landscape just before you head down the winding road to the desert."

The painting to be auctioned is entitled "Dead or Alive" and is wood framed oil on canvas, 32 X 42 inches. Shown in the juried exhibition "Looking West" sponsored by American Women Artists at the Steamboat Art Museum in Colorado last year, the painting received the Southwest Art Magazine Award of Excellence.

"Dead or Alive" can be viewed at ABF's State Park Store at The Mall through July 10. It and other paintings by Rusczyk are also shown on her website – Rusczyk has generously offered to donate to ABF 25 percent of sales of her paintings through July 31.

"We're very excited to be able to offer Vanessa's exquisite painting at auction," said Fordem. "It would add such a beautiful dimension to the home of any lover of the desert."

ABF is in daily communication with Anza-Borrego Desert State Park about the timing and process of greater public access to the Park. Check in at the Park's website for updates: