100 Years of Park Memories

Whether you’re a local-history aficionado or your only familiarity with the term "parks and recreation" is from a TV sitcom, we've published a brand new book highlighting 100 years of park history! 

San Diego County Parks: Over 100 Years
reveals newly discovered history, corrects popular misconceptions, presents information you can’t find anywhere else, and answers long-standing questions about people and places in San Diego. It’s a fine-tuned passion project representing years of original research by Ellen L. Sweet and Jennifer A. Grahlman.  

The County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation has been serving the public for more than 100 years – sharing unique recreational experiences while preserving significant natural and cultural resources since the establishment of its first outdoor venue – Collier County Park – in 1913. Years later, the County’s property portfolio spans 55,000 acres with more than 100 parks and preserves along the coastline, lakes and lagoons, and in mountains, valleys. deserts and other natural habitats. It is the most biologically diverse county in the nation.

Learn about Mexican-era ranchos, an overland stage station, remnants of an early gristmill, Victorian mansions, traces of flume systems, Depression-era construction projects, and an 1887 boathouse. Meet San Diego’s founding mothers and fathers – people such as Kate Sessions, Elisha Babcock, Felicita la Chappa, George Marston, Ed Fletcher, William Templeton Johnson, Alonzo Horton, and John D. Spreckels. See how they shaped our park system and paved the way for other influential leaders to leave their marks.  

Information and materials came from County archives and storage, park offices, online research and through collaboration with organizations like the San Diego History Center.

“We love the detective work get excited over the littlest find because it can make a big difference in how we understand and interpret history,” said Ellen.

Jennifer added, “Our biggest challenge was to decide what to cut out; there are so many cool photos and stories with good tidbits of information.”

What history is hidden where you lay your picnic blanket or take your kids to play? Who before you trekked San Diego’s mountains and camped in its deserts?

This book explains the significance of the land where you choose to recreate! Released Aug. 21, 2017, it is now available on Amazon and at select* County Parks facilities. A portion of the proceeds will come back to County Parks to support ongoing park preservation efforts.


DPR History Center: 858-966-1304
Open select weekdays; call for appointment

DPR Headquarters: 877-565-3600
Open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday 

Media Inquiries/Tour Dates: 858-966-1331

*Other sales locations include Waterfront Park, Rancho Guajome Adobe and County Parks’ community centers in Fallbrook, Lakeside and Spring Valley.

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