New Interpretive Panels for Turtleback Trail

Jake's Island near Turtle Back Trail

Jake’s Island, off the back of Turtle Back Trail

China Camp State Park in Marin County provides valuable public coastal access, and the beach at the old fishing village site is popular with swimmers and picnickers. Equally well-used are the fifteen miles of trails that head off along the shore and crisscross the adjacent uplands.

One of those trails is called Turtle Back Trail. A 1.5 mile loop trail located on the bayside of N. San Pedro Road, just south of the entrance to Buck Ranch Meadows Campground, it includes great views out to the Bay, a shady stretch through upland woods, and five large interpretive panels that introduce hikers to the salt marsh, upland and mudflat habitat in the park.

old fishing boat at China Camp

old fishing boat at China Camp Beach

Sun and foggy sea air (and possibly mischief-makers) had taken a toll on the Turtle Back Trail panels. Faded and missing some of the three-dimensional add-ons, they were in need of a do-over — and earlier this year, we won the contract to replace them.

We reproduced the designs of the existing panels and commissioned new 3D tactile elements for three of them.

Thanks to everyone who worked with us on the project: California State Parks, sculptor Bridget Keimel, KVO in Santa Rosa, and Barber Signs in Petaluma. A good team effort!


Turtle Back Trail scrapbook:

changing out a panel on the trail

Changing out a panel on Turtle Back Trail earlier this month.

Salt Marsh panel with pickleweed

The Salt Marsh panel boasts a new pickleweed sculpture.

two hikers near the Salt Marsh panel

Regulars along the trail stop to chat near the Salt Marsh panel.

The Uplands panel with new shelf fungus

The Uplands panel includes a 3D representation of shelf fungus.

john glews near the upland panel

Our friend John Glews contributed his two cents — and we appreciated his feedback!

looking back down the trail

Looking back down the trail on the way to the Tidal Flats panel.

Tidal Flats panel

The Tidal Flats panel, incongruously located at the high point of the trail.

view out to the Bay from Turtle Back Trail

View out to San Pablo Bay from Turtle Back Trail.

overlooking San Pablo Bay in China Camp

Another vantage point in China Camp State Park, just south of Turtle Back Trail.


Legacy Park in Malibu Wins ASLA Honor Award

Legacy Park in Malibu, California, has won an Honor Award for Design in the Parks, Recreation, Trails and Open Space category from the American Association of Landscape Architects.

Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey (RHAA) picked up the award for creating a 15-acre habitat demonstration, environmental education and storm water management oasis from what was once, by some accounts, a rather scrappy vacant lot. Tom worked with Leslie Stone and Associates on the interpretive component of the project, providing illustrations for panels and designing what became some pretty cool mosaic sculptures. Congratulations to everyone involved.

More from Whitworth & i on the project:
Malibu Sketchbook on Tom’s blog
Legacy Park animals on Tom’s blog
More views of Legacy Park animals
Legacy Park animals hit the road

More on Legacy Park:
Malibu Legacy Park


Gleanings by Bob CannardWhile it’s not really our announcement to make, we are pleased to be able to say a project that has been on the back burner for quite some time was recently wrapped up and turned over to the client.

Whew! […wiping brow…]

For the first time (ever), some of Bob Cannard’s ideas about farming and his own approach to growing have been collected in book form. We called it Gleanings and it includes a brief introduction, two sections presenting Bob’s philosophy, one section on basic garden rules, and then back matter on garden teas, the four+ food groups and working the soil for improvement. It’s not a ‘manual’ by any stretch. Much like any talk you might have heard Bob give, it’s meant to be an equal mixture of inspiration and instruction.

Greenstring Institute will now be carrying the project forward and releasing more copies, reissuing Gleanings in a revised form, or perhaps turning it over to another publisher. Check with Greenstring for details.

In the meantime, Whitworth & I have three two [no longer available…] copies of this original first edition available for purchase: 80 pages; 5 in. x 8 in.; paper wraps; $20.00, inclusive of shipping and California sales tax.

Bob Cannard is a renowned Northern California farmer who has been supplying produce to fine restaurants and regular folks alike for decades, while lecturing widely on organic techniques and restorativefarming.

Bob Cannard – farming with nature on
Edible Education: On the Farm by Bob Cannard on

More Views of Legacy Park Mosaic Animals

Robin Indar, the mosaic artist who made the larger than life animal sculptures installed in Malibu Legacy Park last fall, has posted some more views of the animals that we think are pretty fun.

Tom designed the sculptures in preparation for Robin’s work, and it’s exciting to see the finished sculptures.

Here’s Robin’s video. Enjoy.

on Tom Whitworth’s blog:
Malibu sketchbook
Legacy Park animals

on W&i:
Legacy Park animals hit the road

Drawing Alternative Energy

Frank Binney is an interpretive writer and long time caver. I worked with him in the past to dream up and draw exhibits to be installed in the new National Cave & Karst Research Institute under construction in New Mexico.

The building will feature a Ground Source Heat Pump which exploits the fact that the constant temperature under ground — in a cave say – is an average of the summer/winter extremes above ground. So using some sort of exchange m-edium you can cool a building in summer and heat it in winter with a lot less energy.

Frank needed a drawing of a simple interpretive panel to explain to visitors how it works, bearing in mind that most people spend 45 seconds tops at each display in a visitors center or museum. (Advertisers have known this for years.)

So here’s my series of sketches that led to the drawing at the bottom, which Frank sent to the client as part of his proposal — to help sell the idea.


illustration Tom Whitworth


Frank Binney & Associates

Muir Beach Field Trip

Muir Beach headlandsA month or so ago Tom was asked to do some illustrations for a small booklet about Muir Beach that will be used by the park service to introduce children to the area. We’d visited Muir Beach before and Tom had been sent detailed references to work from, but it still seemed worth the drive out for a little field trip.

seagull at Muir BeachJust so you know, we arrived in the morning, before the fog had burned off. In case you didn’t know, these pictures depict what passes for a pretty good day at the beach in Northern California. It was warm, which you can’t tell from the pictures, those aren’t rain clouds (‘just fog’) and there were people swimming, fishing and otherwise enjoying themselves. (So there.)

Lagoon at Muir BeachMuir Beach is both the name of a cluster of houses out at the end of a very windy road in western Marin County and a section of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The latter preserves a sandy strip of coastline where Redwood Creek reaches the ocean. It’s a small but important point of public access to the ocean and includes a surprising range of coastal habitats in its rather limited geographical area.

In the park, Redwood Creek cuts through a shallow line of dunes and across the beach, flowing from a lagoon and wetlands area just to the east. Although the Redwood Creek watershed drains just seven square miles, it provides critical habitat for salmon and other fish.

Redwood Creek outlet at Muir BeachThe park service is working hard to reverse changes made to the creek drainage upstream from the parking lot where early on areas were drained and channeled for agriculture and other uses and many exotic plant species gained a foothold.

Redwood Creek salmon habitatThe area around the parking lot and lagoon is also undergoing a transformation. Once overrun by non-native species – most notably vast mats of Kikuyu grass — the whole of the area has recently been cleared and is being revegetated with native wetland plants.

wetland revegetationFortunately for us a park botanist was onsite when we happened by on our field trip. Tom had been asked to include representative species in some of the illustrations and it sure helps to have someone who knows what they’re looking at point out to you what those are. I mean, look at that picture of newly planted sedges and rushes. Do they all kind of look the same to you? Exactly.

The trip was worthwhile for that alone — meeting up with the botanist, that is — and the illustrations came together nicely.

illustration by Tom Whitworth

Legacy Park Animals Hit the Road

It’s exciting. Some of the animals Tom designed for Malibu Legacy Park are now complete and have begun the journey south for installation.

photo source: Robin Indar - lifting snakeMosaic artist Robin Indar has been working hard to complete all of the sculptures for the park opening that will be scheduled for sometime this fall. (You can find more pictures of her work for this project on her blog Confessions of a Tile Smasher – and you’ll find more information about her on her website

We’re looking forward to seeing the animals in place – especially once the plants and landscaped areas of the 17-acre park have matured. They should be pretty spectacular.

Legacy Park is the linchpin in the City of Malibu’s $50 million dollar plan to improve water quality. The park is designed to work as an environmental cleaning machine, reducing pollution impacts in Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon, and at Surfrider Beach. At the same time it will provide a living learning center for five coastal habitats – including Southern California’s only coastal prairie. The animals that have been sculpted were chosen as representative of those coastal habitats.

photo source: Robin Indar - mosaic animals
Tom worked on this project through
Leslie Stone & Associates.

read more:
Legacy Park Malibu on this blog

Legacy Park animals on Tom Whitworth’s blog

Image Gallery on the park’s website

Cheese and Trees

packaging graphics by Tom Whitworth

I recently completed some exploratory designs for a new cheese product that unfortunately will not be going ahead, and some illustrations for interpretive signage at Mariposa Grove that will. Here are a few of them.

The Phymatodes nitidus borer beetle and Douglas squirrel both have symbiotic relationships with Giant Sequoia trees (cross section shown) in that they speed seed dispersal from cones (also shown) that otherwise may remain closed for 20 years. The squirrel eats the cone scales and discards the seeds, and the beetle severs vascular connections to the scales, which dry and release the seeds.

Even then the seeds are unlikely to germinate in the rich organic matter around the trees until fire creates minerals that trigger the process.


illustration Tom Whitworth

more illustrations Tom Whitworth

Legacy Park Malibu

Tom is fortunate to work with exhibit designer Leslie Stone & Associates of Sausalito, who in turn works with the landscape architecture firm Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey on Legacy Park in Malibu. It’s a joint project of Malibu’s city council, residents, non-profit groups, generous donors and the local water agency.

The park will feature Leslie’s interpretive nodes and a number of large scale sculptures that Tom got to visualize in drawings like this one. The idea is to create anatomically correct but large scale animals appropriate to the five coastal habitats featured in the park. Local artists will add mosaic treatments using colors and materials representative of Malibu’s particular art and craft heritage – for a stunning added dimension.

mosaic rabbit tom whitworth

Tom made the jackrabbit above as a small test piece. It looks good but would be tough to engineer safely. There is also a coyote (and a snake, and an owl…) which is posed to avoid “voids” to make the job of armature building simpler and the final sculpture more appropriate to a public environment.

The project is a wonderful example of cooperative teamwork that will result in a singular impact.