Historic California Mission marked for closure
LOMPOC, Calif. (The Tidings) - California state parks supporters are involved in multiple grassroots campaigns to stop the closure of several parks, including La Purísima Mission State Historic Park in Lompoc which draws thousands of schoolchildren and mission enthusiasts annually.
TO BE CLOSED? - La Purísima Mission State Historic Park in Lompoc is one of 48 state parks, beaches and recreation areas statewide that would be closed in efforts to close a $14.1 billion state budget deficit. (The Tidings/Al Antczak)
The proposed closure of 48 state parks, beaches, reserves and recreation areas is part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s across-the-board 10 percent reduction plan among all state agencies to defray California’s current $14 billion deficit and balance the $141 billion spending budget released Jan. 10.
News of La Purísima’s possible closure has already led to several letter-writing campaigns in support of keeping the 2,000-acre park open to its 180,000 annual visitors, including an estimated 20,000 schoolchildren.
Founded in 1787
A state historic landmark, La Purísima Mission is the most completely restored mission complex in the U.S., operated by California State Parks as a living history museum with a church and 37 craft and residence rooms. The mission is a restoration of portions of the 1812 earthquake reconstruction when the church, founded in 1787 by Franciscan Father Fermin de Lasuén, was moved four miles from its original location.
The church in the park is not an active parish today. However, once a year on the mission’s anniversary founding date of Dec. 8, Father Thomas Cook, administrator from nearby La Purísima Concepcion Catholic Church – located approximately 1/4 mile from the original mission site – comes in to celebrate Mass.
“A lot of parishioners are upset, but so are lots of others, including local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce which has started a chain letter campaign in support of leaving the mission open. The community as a whole feels very negative about the mission closing,” said Frank Hain, La Purísima Concepción Church’s business manager and a Chamber of Commerce member. Residents, he said, are concerned about losing a local historical landmark as well as the economic fallout from reduced tourism.
‘Appalled’ at idea of closure
Jack Forrest, one of 160 volunteers at La Purísima Mission state park who is spearheading a letter writing campaign backed by the non-profit, Riverside-based California Missions Foundation, said his fellow docents were “appalled” that California’s eleventh mission is targeted for closure.
“We feel it’s an insensitive approach ruining what is an internationally known tourist attraction and cultural heritage site that draws thousands of California schoolchildren each year,” said Forrest. Last week, docent volunteers sent out scores of letters to fourth grade teachers who have led field trips to the mission over the last two years inviting their students to contact legislators about not closing the “Jewel of the Central Coast.”
“We’re mad. We’re going to fight down to the last breath,” said Forrest, 91, who portrays the mission “majordomo” during living history days when docents in period costumes demonstrate skills and crafts from the early 1800s.
One of the original 21-mission chain
Staff members at neighboring Mission Santa Inés in Solvang have inserted announcements in the parish bulletin for the past two weekends apprising parishioners of La Purísima’s proposed closure.
“We don’t want La Purísima to close. We feel it’s an important part of the 21 mission chain, providing living interpretive history for students,” said Sheila Benedict, business manager at Mission Santa Inés.
Father James Anguiano, pastor at San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura, said he was shocked to learn La Purísima Mission might be closed. “We can’t just dispose of historical sites,” commented Father Anguiano, currently preparing for San Buenaventura’s 225th anniversary Mass March 30 with Cardinal Roger Mahony.
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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of The Tidings (www.the-tidings.com), official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
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