|Lordy, Lordy, Chapter’s 40
Ansel Adams started the ball rolling | by Rod Holmgren
In Adams’ letter inviting Monterey County members of Sierra Club to meet
at his home in March, 1963 he wrote, “The purpose is to organize an aggressive
group that will effectively utilize the combined efforts of the Sierra Club in
protecting those things that we consider valuable.”
Sidnam and Doyt Early, long-time outing leaders, clear and measure a trail between
Chews Ridge and Anastasia Canyon, 1973.
Some 50 members gathered for a three-hour Sunday afternoon meeting at the Adams
home in Carmel Highlands. Since Monterey was still within Loma Prieta Chapter
boundaries, Frank Coale, then chair of the Palo Alto-based Chapter, came to the
meeting and endorsed the idea of a new chapter here.
In addition to approving interim organizing steps, the members agreed to ask the
Sierra Club Council and Board of Directors for a charter. Sixty-nine of the Club’s
members signed the petition, sent in April to Club headquarters.
Less than a month after the March 17 meeting in the Highlands, the first edition
of the newsletter appeared, edited by Mary Ann, “Corky,” Matthews.
By the second issue, the paper was named Ventana Cone, and by the third—in
June—simply The Ventana.
The national office wanted to name the chapter Santa Lucia. But then it was pointed
out that Santa Lucia was the name of a subsection of the Santa Barbara Chapter.
So chapter leaders said they liked the name of the Ventana Wild Area in the heart
of the Santa Lucia Range. So the chapter was named Ventana, and the Ventana Wilderness
was designated as part of the Los Padres National Forest several years later.
Outside of California, there were then only three other chapters of Sierra Club—Atlantic,
Pacific NW, and Great Lakes.
exhibit at the Monterey County Fair, 1972.
The new Ventana Chapter had 199 members, while the national Club membership stood
at just 21,000. The Chapter’s current membership, 40 years later, is 6,000,
and the Club’s national membership is over 700,000.
The Santa Cruz Regional Group, which had been a part of the Loma Prieta Chapter,
became part of the Ventana Chapter in 1975.
Since the chapter’s founding, it has sponsored a wide range of activities
and projects. For example, in 1978, 1980, 1982 and 1987, the Chapter sponsored
outings gear sales in Carmel and Monterey. Each one raised $800 for the Chapter.
A mountaineering section was formed in 1964 to provide instruction in roped climbing
techniques at local climbing areas-mainly Granite Creek on Highway 1, and Pinnacles
National Monument—and to offer cross-country and climbing trips.
In the late ‘60s, members of the mountaineering section pioneered the route
through the spectacular Arroyo Seco Gorge, and in succeeding years guided hundreds
of gorge-runners on what became of the Chapter’s most popular outings. Another
project of the mountaineering section was development of 10 cross-country routes
to the “Window” (“Ventana” in Spanish), the sharp notch
in the ridge running west from the Ventana Double Cone—and the source of
the Chapter’s name.
For some years, the Chapter had a speaker’s bureau, and for even more years
the Monterey branch held Mayfest and Octoberfest picnics, usually in Toro Park
The Chapter’s first Trail Guide to Los Padres National Forest, Monterey
Division, was published in 1969. This summer, the Chapter will publish the 7th
edition of this guide edited by Joyce Stevens. The trail guide has been a significant
fund raiser for the chapter. It is based on the work of Nancy Hopkins who wrote
the text for the first edition.
is this masked man? Word has it this is Chip Crawford. Lucky for him bear cans
weren’t required when this photo was taken.
In 1977, the Chapter opened an office/library/bookshop in the Las Tiendas Building
on Carmel’s Ocean Avenue. The office still flourishes, with volunteers staffing
it Monday through Saturday afternoons.
From the start, Chapter members knew they lived in one of the most beautiful coastal
areas in the world, and they were determined to preserve it. That’s the
reason Chapter meetings and the pages of The Ventana have been dominated over
the years by place names such as Big Sur, Pico Blanco, Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing,
Monterey Bay, Carmel Bay and Del Monte Beach.
In 1972, the Chapter campaigned successfully for creation of the Monterey Peninsula
Regional Park District. In the same year, it worked for creation of the California
Coastal Commission, which regulates development along the state’s lengthy
coast. More recently, the Chapter and Group worked for the establishment of the
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
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