Van Damme State Park consists of about 1,831 acres (7.41 km2) of land in Mendocino County, California, near the town of Little River on State Route 1. It was named for Charles Van Damme (1881–1934), who was born in the area and purchased the land that is now the park with profits from a San Francisco ferry business. On his death, the property became part of the California state park system.
The greater part of the park lies on the inland side of State Route 1 and includes ten miles of hiking trails along the Little River and campsites rated by the Guardian as one of the ten best on the West Coast.
On the ocean side of the highway, a free parking lot provides access to Little River Beach at the mouth of the Little River, also part of the park. The waters offshore from the beach form the Van Damme State Marine Conservation Area.The beach also serves as the launch site for kayak tours of the sea caves in the area.
Another part of the park, Spring Ranch, consists of 160 acres (0.65 km2) of blufftop meadows on the ocean side of Route 1 north of Little River and a restored set of barns dating from 1860. It was purchased by the state in 1996.
Inland, a boardwalked nature trail leads through a pygmy forest, where poor soil has created a marshy ecosystem of stunted cypress and pine trees and rhododendrons. There are two pygmy forested areas within Van Damme State Park. On the north border of the park is a 5-acre (2.0 ha) parcel named in honor of Charlotte M. Hoak.
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Charlotte Milliken Hoak (1874-1967) was a 20th-century teacher, horticulturist, occasional botanist and garden columnist in Southern California. She advocated the use of native plants for landscaping public places including roadsides because they were best suited for the environment and did not draw on scarce water resources. As a teacher she taught organic gardening and composting techniques to her elementary school students and members of the community. Charlotte received recognition and awards from several plant societies, garden clubs, and well known botanists and horticulturists with whom she worked. Her contributions to the field of horticulture and her advocacy for the conservation of natural resources and preservation of wild-lands is documented and warrants recognition.
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