FRIENDS OF JAWBONE

On January 26, 1996, the first meeting of the Jawbone Steering Committee, an early incarnation of the Friends of Jawbone, was held in the newly completed Jawbone Station building. Those in attendance included Jim Keeler, Craig Beck, Dave Kotlarski, and Myrtle Railey (who were running the station at the time), as well as Jim Clark, Dave Johnston, Kathy Baker, Carol Barrett, Don Maben, Bill Deaver, Steve Pawling, Clark Woy, Holly Hart, Roni Fortun, Stan Haye, Elayn Briggs, John Butz, and Loretta Pedersen. Topics that day included the operation and leadership of the station, the possibility of opening a bookstore, a Grand Opening ceremony, and which of two organizations to associate with: the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association or the Southwest Natural and Cultural Heritage Association.

The Grand Opening for the new building was held in mid-April with a number of dignitaries and guests present. The Station was dedicated to Mark “Moose” Anderson, an avid off-roader and an early member of the Off-Highway Commission. A plaque to honor him was placed near the flag pole in front of the station and several of his family members were present to speak of his life. It was a fitting tribute, since Mark Anderson served as the first Commissioner on the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Commission and worked successfully in conjunction with many other individuals in the Jawbone area to promote responsible recreational use. His degree in Natural Resource Planning, as well as his motocross racing history, made him uniquely suited for the job and an ideal advocate both for the environment and OHV sports. In addition to his work with the OHV Commission he also ran a part-time business as a motorcycle adventure guide in Baja. Sadly, he suffered a fatal motorcycle accident in Mexico in 1987, but his tireless work with OHV, and his dedication to landscape conservation, is honored each year at the annual Moose Anderson Days volunteer event at Jawbone Station.

By May 10th of that year a decision had been made as to who to associate with and a representative of the Southwest Natural and Cultural Heritage Association met with the committee to discuss placing a bookstore in the station. It was decided that they would fund a bookstore opening and, if the monthly gross sales exceeded $500, it would stay open with their blessing. If not, they would withdraw their support. The bookstore opened in late summer and even during that first month netted over $800 in sales; a figure which grew with each passing month. In August of 1996 the name of the group was changed from Jawbone Steering Committee to the Friends of Jawbone, and officers were elected. Ed Waldheim was elected as president and has been re-elected ever since, now going on 16 highly successful years.  The name would again be changed on March 9, 1998 when The Friends of Jawbone revived their 501.c3 not for profit status from the IRS and incorporated as Friends of Jawbone, Inc. Also in 1996, volunteer Myrtle Railey was formally hired as a BLM park ranger to staff the station five days a week.

Early in 1997 plans were solidified to hold the first annual Moose Anderson Days, with the event to be held the weekend of April 21-22. During this time Letterhead and the Friends of Jawbone logo (a moose with a motorcycle) were created. The first Moose Anderson Days was a success by all accounts, with 127 volunteers showing up and removing 20 tons of trash from the desert. Each volunteer received a free t-shirt and a free lunch, a tradition which continues today.

In October it was decided that a map of the riding areas surrounding Jawbone Station should be created. In spring of 1998 Alex Smith created the first draft of the map that would become the Friends of Jawbone map, and a grant proposal was submitted. Funding was always an issue, so through the Kern County Board of Supervisors Friends of Jawbone was able to receive a grant for their maps resulting in the grant received in the spring of 1999 for $18,000. In subsequent years FOJ received money from OHV Green Sticker programs and even, once, a grant from Deutch Bank to fund the map production. Even though the maps are a brisk seller, we have always given away far more of them then we have sold and therefore they are not self-sufficient and require grant funding to print.

On July 22, 1998 Mr. Bob, a 100 year old desert tortoise, joined the FOJ family and was installed in a habitat outside of Jawbone Station, where he is still going strong at 114 years of age. The following October there was another exciting addition to the station, the Friends of Jawbone purchased their first computer, a used one, for $500. In that same month the E. Clampus Vitus organization (a group dedicated to the study and preservation of Western heritage) installed a monument to Josie Bishop near the front gate of the station. Josie is the famed “Uranium Queen of the West,” known for her uranium discovery northwest of the station in the 1940s. The Cantil Post office, located in the nearby Jawbone Store, was closed. Soon after, the Honda Proving Ground provided funds for mail boxes to be placed at Jawbone Station, where the mail is still received today. A rare low-point in the year occurred when Jawbone Station was broken into twice, though both times the robbers were arrested soon after the break-in.

By 2000, one year after the first edition of the Friends of Jawbone map was printed, it had sold over 10,000 copies. In response to the growing demand, the map went into a second printing, and has seen seven more editions produced, with the ninth currently in production. The following year, in November, high winds forced the closure of highway 14 on thanksgiving day. Thirty-two people were unexpectedly stranded in the parking lot at jawbone station. Luckily for them, they had landed the day after the Friends of Jawbone’s annual Thanksgiving Lunch, and FOJ was happy to share the leftovers with the stranded travelers.

2002 proved to be a year of big changes at the station. Jim Keeler, and Dave Kotlarski accepted new positions elsewhere in the state and Myrtle Railey retired. With staff now spread thin, BLM decided to outsource the station’s operation to the Friends of Jawbone and Robin Mallow was hired to manage the station. FOJ has managed the station ever since and is a driving force behind the current expansion project. The Friends of Jawbone also adopted the Josie Bishop property at the request of her grandson, and they now manage it in conjunction with BLM.

In 2003 Robin spearheaded a school outreach program for elementary school children (although in later years the program was expanded to include both junior and senior high schools). From 2003 to 2005 she traveled to local schools teaching kids proper OHV conduct and emphasizing the importance of preserving desert habitats. The program was suspended in 2005 due to a lack of staff available to travel to the schools. Now, with our new Interpretive Center, FOJ will enter into grant requests to have school children bussed to the center to be educated on-site. 

In 2004 the fifth edition of the Friends of Jawbone map was printed. At the same time new maps were created to include Los Angeles County, Los Padres National Forest, and the Angeles National Forest. Vault toilets were installed in the Jawbone Station parking lot and at several locations in Jawbone Canyon and Dove Springs. Toward the end of the year the first plans were put forward to expand Jawbone Station, although the expansion would have to wait for the passing of a bill in order to go forward. The year 2005 saw the first Student Conservation Crews arriving in the canyon to do restoration work and trail maintenance and they have continued to return each year to Jawbone. Also in 2005, inn recognition for his efforts not only at Jawbone Canyon but throughout the Southern California Desert, Mr. Waldheim was elected to the Off-Road Motor sports Hall of Fame in Reno, Nevada and also into the American Motorcyclist Hall of Fame in Ohio. Ed Waldheim was also honored as a volunteer of the year for Ridgecrest BLM at a ceremony in the Department of the Interior in Washington DC.

2006 started with a bang, with the Friends of Jawbone assuming full operation of the bookstore from Southwest Natural and Cultural Heritage association, allowing all profits to remain with the Friends of Jawbone and to be used by them to operate the station, purchase equipment, and fund various projects. FOJ also assumed financial support of Bickel Camp, a historic mining site located in the El Paso mountains. Funds were used to purchase several lots on the main street in Randsburg and to create an off-highway vehicle parking lot with signs telling the riders what was, and was not, legal in the area. In April, they celebrated the 10th annual Moose Anderson Days. Grant money was utilized to purchase a quad for the BLM Rangers, which became the first in a fleet of vehicles the Friends of Jawbone would acquire. In May they applied for funds to expand the Jawbone Station and to build a garage/shop to house the growing fleet of vehicles.

2007 was a turning-point, funding wise, for Friends of Jawbone. First, the Recreational Trail Program (RTP) was created and funded by federal transportation taxes and administered by the OHV Division. As a result Friends of Jawbone received over $250,000, which made it possible to purchase all the equipment currently used at Jawbone for the maintenance of Recreational Facilities. In subsequent years RTP played a key role in fencing projects to protect natural resources and to assure the continued use of existing designated trails. 2007 also witnessed new legislation passed that changed the availability of grants for non-profit organizations. Since then FOJ has made huge strides getting operations and maintenance, and restoration grants, as well as education and safety grants and, as a result, has made great strides in the work they can do in and around Jawbone Canyon.

In May of 2007 a bookstore was opened at the El Mirage BLM station, the books were purchased from the Friends of Jawbone Bookstore at Jawbone Canyon. In 2008, Honda, ever a good partner to the Friends of Jawbone, topped their usual yearly donation of a generator (which was always raffled off during Moose Anderson Days) and donated a quad to Friends of Jawbone. In 2009 the Friends of Jawbone learned they would receive funds for the station expansion, also that year an information kiosk was installed outside the station. In june funding was received for the station expansion and work started in July of that year. In October Friends of Jawbone extended their online presence by starting a Facebook page and, before the end of the year, they had 316 friends on their page.

2010 and 2011 proved to be boom years for the Friends of Jawbone despite a down-turning economy. Honda topped themselves once again and donated a box truck to FOJ. In April 2010 the Jawbone Station bookstore’s monthly sales reached $10,000, and in September a groundbreaking was held for the station expansion. The following month FOJ received the “Business of the Year” award from the city of California City. On October 27th, Jawbone Station played host to ATV safety classes and on October 30th they held their first Halloween Safety Event and Poker Run. In December the foundation was poured for the station expansion. In April of 2011 the Bookstore once again set a record, this time recording sales of $10,695. June marked an emotional time as long-time vice president June Paul Kober moved to Alabama and the framework for the shop was finished. In December of 2011 the Friends of Jawbone launched the OwlsheadGPS website, their newest venture to make access to accurate route information easy and available to the general public.

Now, in April of 2012, we look forward to a bright future. The station expansion is complete, the Friends of Jawbone map will be releasing its 9th edition, and the station is staffed 365 days a year. Friends of Jawbone looks forward to continuing to work closely with the Bureau of Land Management to help maintain access to public lands for all. The organization is glad to aid BLM in their works not only in Jawbone Canyon, but in the El Paso mountains, Rand mountains, and the Four Corners area as well. They also hope, with the help of BLM, to expand the OwlsheadGPS project to include the whole of the Western Mojave Desert. For more information on that project, please visit www.owlsheadgps.com.

Want to know more about Friends of Jawbone? Want to volunteer or find out about future events? Interested in becoming a member of Friends of Jawbone?

Visit www.Jawbone.org for up-to-date information and to join our bi-weekly e-newsletter.


Jawbone Station Today.