Seated at a picnic table under the pergola at Seacliff State Beach, Anna Nieto gestured out at the view of gentle waves on a sunny, late winter day. Her mom, she said, would have absolutely loved this spot.
That’s why Nieto and her family chose to dedicate a Tribute Table, a custom engraved picnic table, to her late mother, Maria Nieto, at one of their family’s favorite gathering places.
“My family wanted to have some sort of memorial tribute to our mom. We chose to put a picnic table inscribed with her name at Seacliff. We had so many good times there as a family, so it seemed the perfect place. We were not disappointed! The table is beautiful and is the perfect way to remember her.”
— Anna Nieto
The Tribute Tables program, a collaborative project between nonprofit Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and California State Parks, enables park supporters to honor a loved one, celebrate a milestone or demonstrate community support by having a message engraved into the cross-timber of a redwood picnic table.
The Tribute Tables program has successfully placed more than 60 new tables in local state parks and beaches, replacing aging infrastructure while providing people an opportunity to create a lasting dedication. There are 250 more available in various parks throughout Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. All tables are ADA accessible.
Donna Blitzer dedicated a Tribute Table at Natural Bridges State Beach to her parents, Ev and Marge McTaggart in 2020.
“The family always loved to go camping and we just had so many wonderful memories of being around a picnic table and family life … so when it came time to do a tribute to my parents, we all felt like this was the most appropriate thing,” Blitzer said. “We come often to visit, and we also love it when we see visitors here enjoying the table.”
The program began almost four years ago, and new picnic tables have been installed at 17 state parks and beaches. Currently, Tribute Tables are available to dedicate in day-use areas and campgrounds at 22 state parks and beaches.
McNee Ranch may not be familiar to Santa Cruzans, but the ecological treasure trove is part of Montara State Beach, located on the western flank of Montara Mountain. Accessible from Highway 1 in San Mateo County, the area is a northern spur of the Santa Cruz Mountains and features the only undisturbed coastal mountain habitat found on over 100 miles of coastline.
Back in the early ‘90s, plans called for an overland freeway bypass to connect Pacifica to Montara via the park. Chris Thollaug, a local environmental activist, organized a grassroots campaign that led to the construction of the Devils Slide Tunnel instead, forever protecting McNee Ranch and Montara Mountain.
Thollaug hiked in the area often until his death in 2020 at the age of 70. His memory lives on at the park, where his family recently installed a Tribute Table in Thollaug’s honor in a grassy spot in the old quarry area of the park.
“Tribute Tables are a meaningful way to show appreciation for a loved one or special milestone in your life, while supporting our beloved state parks and beaches. The gift of a Tribute Table also gives park visitors a place to pause and reflect, or to take a break to celebrate.”
— Bonny Hawley, Executive Director of Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks
Susan Gorsky dedicated Tribute Tables at both Seacliff State Beach and The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park to her late husband, Buzz Gorsky.
“Buzz loved the state parks,” she shared. “He ran and hiked in Nisene Marks and we were docents both there and at Seacliff. Thus, I could not find a better memorial for him than a picnic table in each park.”
For the Gorsky family, Buzz’s tables are a special way to remember their loved one. They visit often. “My immediate family gathered from all over the country the day the tables were placed in the parks, one day before the larger celebration for family and friends,” Susan Gorsky said. “I visit the tables frequently, alone or with friends. We have picnics and book groups and quiet time there, reading the inscriptions and thinking of the man we loved and miss.”
The minimum donation for a Tribute Table is $2,500, with proceeds from the program supporting local state parks and beaches.
Tribute Tables can be placed in the following state parks and beaches: