No products in the cart.

Saving Point Reyes

Saving Point Reyes

Every book has its own unique point of origin, that Big Bang moment when it first miraculously springs from nothingness into its author’s mind. You just never know when it’s going to happen, which helps to explain why this part of the process is both joyous and exasperating.

What’s also true if you’re a writer who likes to hang with other writers is that sometimes you’re the parent of a book idea and sometimes you’re just a witness to its birth. Five years ago this month, Karen and I went to visit my older brother Gerry in Inverness, on the edge of the Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s an area that has a long history in our family, that Gerry has visited dozens of times, and where I joined him several times as a boy.

During our drive over to the shore from Gerry’s rental, we stopped at the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center—Gerry’s idea, motivated by the fact that, like the center, I carry Miller’s name (my middle name is Clement, after him). As we walked around the center and chatted with a staff member, my own wheels were turning toward the essay (“Names and Places”) that resulted from this visit, and also ended up making it into my book The Remembering: Reflections on Love, Art, Faith, Heroes, Grief and Baseball.

At the same time, Gerry—whose background includes 20 years staffing legislative leaders in the US Congress and a dozen years teaching graduate students at the University of Virginia—was struck by something different: the story of the land itself. Point Reyes National Seashore is 71,000 acres of stunning coastal land located just 25 miles from the massive urban center of San Francisco. It could have, should have, fallen victim to developers’ bulldozers a dozen times in the 20th century. Thanks in part to people like Congressman Clem Miller and his wife Katy, it did not; it was preserved for future generations through a series of actions whose ripples and consequences are still being played out today. 

How did this happen? And what lessons might future policy-makers and influencers take from the history that led to this magnificent coastline’s preservation?

These are the questions that tickled Gerry’s imagination that day at the Clem Miller Center and set him on a path that led this month to the publication of Saving Point Reyes: How an Epic Conservation Victory Became a Tipping Point for Environmental Policy Action (University Press of Kansas, 2023). The book offers the first comprehensive history of the land of Point Reyes, from prehistoric days and the Coastal Miwok civilization that predated European settlement, through the Spanish Haciendas, the Gold Rush, and the growth of modern San Francisco and Marin County. With the benefit of extensive archival research and interviews, Gerry traces the long legislative and policy-making struggle to take the Point Reyes National Seashore from a concept to the reality seen today. After Clem Miller’s untimely death in October 1962—weeks before I was born—that struggle would fall to his widow Katy Miller (Johnson), who led the effort to secure the funding necessary to create the park as we know it today.

It’s a tale full of dramatic twists and memorable characters that nonetheless offers practical lessons for those seeking to influence policy in an era when making forward-thinking decisions about environmental issues matters more than ever due to the existential threat of climate change. And it’s a tale that traces its own point of origin to that day in August 2018 when Gerry and I wandered through the grounds of the Clem Miller Environmental Center with our imaginations running free, just a couple of writers in search of a story to tell. I’m glad we both found them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign up to get all our latest updates & book release news.