Lenore Rutherford, The Union Democrat

Angels Camp native Peggy Harwell is the new California State Parks Central Valley District concessions specialist, based in Columbia.

She is taking over the position from Cathryn Milner, who retired earlier this year.

The district includes eight state parks and recreation areas, including Columbia Historic State Park in Tuolumne and Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Railtown 1897 State Park in Jamestown is under separate supervision.

Harwell attended her first meeting of Columbia State Park

concessionaires Tuesday, and recently attended her first Columbia

Chamber of Commerce meeting.

"I'm really excited and happy," she said, "but I have a big

learning curve. I know I'll keep getting better and better at the job."

She is the liaison between concessionaires and California State

Parks officials in Sacramento and is responsible for making sure

everyone adheres to their contracts with the state.

In Columbia State Historic Park, for instance, all of the

businesses must represent the 1800s in character and merchandise, and

the merchants must dress in period clothing.

She said although most Columbia businesses now have

concessionaires, there are still some openings. Anyone with ideas for

opening a new business that fits the historic theme of the park is

welcome to call 536-2917 for information about the process of becoming

a concessionaire.

Harwell, 56, was born and raised in Calaveras County, and she has

been trying to work her way back since she first went to work for the

State of California more than 23 years ago.

She started with the California Conservation Corps, where she

worked for 18 years, before becoming a management services technician

at the California State Park district office in Columbia. She worked

there almost five years, then was promoted to a position at the

headquarters in Sacramento.

She stayed there one year and two months before finding out there was a long-term opening in Columbia, which she grabbed.

"It's like everything I've done has led me right here," she said.

"My mother is getting up in age and really needed help taking care of

her five-acre place."

Her mother, Zera Spread-Borough, also owns an historic building, at

1277 S. Main St., in Angels Camp that was once the Angels Dry Goods and

is now Calaveras Customs, a business Harwell and her son opened selling

personalized cups and T-shirts, among other things.

Harwell, 56, is divorced. In addition to her grown son, who also

lives in Calaveras County, she has a grown daughter living in San Luis

Obispo County and three grandchildren.

Contact Lenore Rutherford at lrutherford@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585.