Local National Park personnel have a renewed opportunity to pique the curiosity of elementary school-age children about the life of a famed naturalist, or about the many women who worked in the munitions plants during World War II.

Starting this past weekend during the Labor Day holiday, the John Muir National Historic Site resumed its hours of operation to seven days a week, giving area third- and fourth-grade teachers more of a chance to bring students to Muir's Martinez home.

Field trips and hands-on, curriculum-based activities -- from journaling, holding artifacts reflecting the writings of his sojourns, business affairs, family and friends, and then giving an oral presentation -- are consistent with California's Common Core standards for social sciences.

"It's a discovery process," says park ranger Jim MacDonald.

When National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis was notified of the 5 percent requisite sequester cut to its operational budget in early March 2013, he left decisions of how those cuts would be made to each of the local park superintendents' discretion.

The cuts and ensuing reduced hours came a year after personnel at the John Muir site had been able to renovate the visitor's center, eliminate the park admission, and temporarily increase staffing.

While visitors were still able to enjoy the park for free, the Muir site had been closed on Mondays and Tuesdays due to staffing cuts.

MacDonald notes the many instances when park visitors had arrived on a Monday or Tuesday, and were disappointed to find the site closed.


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News of the restored funding came last spring, but it took time for the hiring process for the necessary extra staffing, explains general superintendent Tom Leatherman, who also oversees the Eugene O'Neill, Port Chicago and Rosie the Riveter national historic sites.

Leatherman notes that the Eugene O'Neill site will soon be open five days a week.

And, while the Rosie the Riveter site has been and will continue to be open seven days a week, it's anticipated that cuts to its community events and civic engagement will be restored.

"This gives us more opportunity to tell people about John Muir and his importance in our history," MacDonald says, noting the park's 50th anniversary.

if you go
WHAT: John Muir National Historic Site
WHERE: 4202 Alhambra Ave., Martinez
NEW HOURS: 9 a.m.-1 p.m., seven days a week
ADMISSION: Free
INFORMATION: Call 925-228-8860, or visit www.nps.gov/jomu