Asilomar State Beach
Narrated by Russ Christoff

My destination was Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds.

Designed in 1913, by architect Julia Morgan of Hearst Castle fame, the center's structures reflect the Arts and Crafts style.

Here stone and wood were used to create the buildings for a coastal YWCA Conference Center and Camp.

Today, Asilomar plays host to many groups and individuals seeking a relaxed retreat for self-enrichment.

The weekend I visited, the California Writer's Club was holding its annual conference.

Writers, agents and editors had gathered for workshops and networking in this state beach's historic setting.

I spoke to Jim the Ranger to find out more.

Jim, Asilomar Conference Center is a unit of the state parks system; but what makes it unique? Tell me about it.

Ranger Jim: Well, Asilomar is really Asilomar State Beach and Conference Center,

and it's designed to be a natural area, but it's surrounding a conference center. And there is only one other unit in the state park's system that has a conference center in it.

Originally, Asilomar was not obtained basically for the conference center, but now since it's on the national register of historic places, Asilomar is of significance not just statewide but for the whole country.

It started out as a YWCA camp in 1913. That was the first year it opened to college age women who were learning leadership skills.

But it was soon noticed by the YWCA that to make ends meet, they were going to need to expand it, and started using it year round for all kinds of conference groups, not just the YWCA.

Russ Christoff: Can you get to the beach from the conference rooms?

Ranger Jim: Yes, we're connected through the sand dunes by boardwalks, and it's very important that people use the boardwalks and not walk on the sand dunes. We provide a boardwalk all the way through the sand dunes and out to the main beach.

The sand dunes were the real reason that Asilomar was acquired by the state. We wanted to restore a natural sand dune area and when this was bought by the state parks in 1956, from the YWCA, that was our main focus.

I think Asilomar, because it's a marriage of a conference center and a natural park, makes it unique and special.

We are significant for the history of Asilomar but we are also very significant for the sand dune restoration and the whole shoreline restoration where we have put all the natural plants back, brought in the natural animals to the landscape, and we provided for people coming to the conference center then the true refuge by the sea -- which is what Asilomar really means.