Xplorer Maps Enters New Territory, Partners with State Parks Association

One of Kristin Howland’s first goals as the new executive director of the Central Coast State Parks Association was to find products for the association’s gift shops and visitor centers that were relevant, customized, and meaningful to the people who visit and live in the area.

Her first thought was to get on the phone with Greg Robitaille, president of Xplorer Maps, and talk about partnering to create a hand-drawn map of the coastlines along the San Luis Obispo, California, area.

In her previous job as director of education at the Catalina Island Conservancy, she had worked with Xplorer Maps on a map of Santa Catalina Island. Highlighting the endemic plants and animals as well as the dolphins, the whales, and the harbors of the rocky island, the map was unique, custom, and very popular with visitors, Howland said.

“I absolutely wanted to work with Xplorer Maps again because of my previous experience,” Howland said. “The maps are beautiful, amazing drawings and I loved working with Greg and his brother, Chris. They work hard – they truly love their work, and it comes out in the art.”

For Xplorer Maps, working with Holland again was a unique opportunity. “When Kristin changed career gears recently and again reached out to Xplorer Maps looking for a similar best-selling product, the idea of working with the same person on projects with two different organizations was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Robitaille said.

Creating a unique, hand-drawn map is an in-depth, collaborative process that involves months working on content and layout. Artist Chris Robitaille then starts in on the artistic process where every line, letter and icon is entirely unique and original to each new map.

Communication along the way between partners and Xplorer Maps is critical. According to Howland, “Greg is awesome to work with. He is very clear and specific about communicating what he needs. I can’t say enough about our working relationship.”

Moving back to San Luis Obispo where she grew up was a good move for Howland, she said. Her two daughters are near their grandparents and it is a fresh, new career step. While it was a change from the non-profit world at the Catalina Island Conservancy, her 17 years working as a park ranger for a variety of government agencies has given her a strong background.

Even though the Catalina Island Conservancy and the Central Coast State Parks Association are very different, both organizations are dedicated to being stewards of the lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation.

“Xplorer Maps beautifully portrays the iconic landscapes, animals, plants, and landmarks of an area,” Howland said. “Locals and longtime visitors to Catalina Island and the Central Coast honor the uniqueness and beauty. Now they have a tangible item that tells the story of why and what they love about these places.”    

A couple of weeks ago, Howland saw the first sketch of the Central Coast map and got excited. “The map features iconic views that people know,” Howland said. “The coastline is rugged and beautiful and will be wonderfully portrayed.”

“The community takes pride in the Central Coast, and this map will be very significant,” she said. “It’s unique and different from Los Angeles and San Francisco, and we pride ourselves on that.”

 About the Central Coast State Parks Association: The Central Coast State Parks Association supports education and interpretation activities in San Luis Obispo Coast District and Oceano Dunes SVRA District parks, including Pismo State Beach and the Monarch Butterfly Grove, Montana de Oro and the Spooner Ranch House, Los Osos Oaks State Reserve, Morro Bay State Park and the Museum of Natural History, Morro Strand State Beach, Estero Bluffs State Park, San Simeon State Park, and Harmony Headlands State Park.

Caption: Kristin Howland, executive director of the Central Coast State Parks Association pictured above.