SOLEDAD, Calif. -- For decades the slogans have sought to entice motorists who pull off Highway 101 in this Salinas Valley farm town -- usually for gas or a cup of coffee -- to stay and visit a while.
"It's Happening in Soledad," declares a billboard that looms over the asphalt artery.
"Soledad: Feel the Momentum," urge the stone markers planted at the town's highway exits.
Now city officials think they have seized on an idea to provide the economic boost the community desperately needs: "Gateway to the Pinnacles."
"This is our chance," Mayor Fred Ledesma said recently, "and it's never going to pass this way again."
The Pinnacles' volcanic spires and talus caves are located five miles east of here, in the Gabilan Mountains. A release site for endangered California condors and a haven for rock climbers, the landscape also hosts a stunning wildflower season, 400 species of bees and more than a dozen types of bats.
A national monument since 1908, the area last month was elevated to national park status thanks to lobbying by federal, state, county and local officials throughout the region.
The change likely will benefit many communities, because national parks bring tourism. And tourism brings dollars.
Hollister, for example, sits 30 miles north of the park's eastern entrance -- and Pinnacle's only campground.
But Soledad, whose only association for many people is the state prison here, perhaps has the most to gain.