On Site with Sue Gardner
Of Parks and People with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
BN: When did you come to the Bay Area and what first brought you here?
SG: I was born and raised in Mill Valley in an era when hippies and rock musicians dominated the scene, and no one ever thought to lock their doors. My pals and I used to play hide-and-go-seek on Mt. Tam, and as long as we were home by dinner time no one ever worried about us.
BN: When and how did you get involved with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy?
SG: While working as a park ranger for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, I jumped at the opportunity to apply for a position to pilot a stewardship program with the Parks Conservancy, the park’s nonprofit affiliate. The position caught my eye because it combined both my passions: people and the environment. That was 19 years ago. I’ve been ‘evolving’ with the program ever since!
BN: What’s one of the most interesting issues or programs you are working on these days?
SG: We’ve been working to integrate more local youth and underserved audiences into the stewardship programming here in the park. Ideally, we’d like those visiting, volunteering and working in the park to better reflect the diversity of the urban community that surrounds these open spaces. We’re working to re-educate ourselves and shift our own internal paradigm so that we can better serve, communicate, and connect to a broader constituency while at the same time offering relevant service, education and job opportunities, particularly for youth. This past summer the Park Stewardship Program alone was able to serve 50 youth through its internship and summer job programs. It was exhausting but well worth the effort!
BN: Who or what in the Bay Area inspires you these days?
SG: The diversity of the landscape and the people. Within the GGNRA alone, one can go from a redwood forest to a coastal wetland and maritime chaparral in one long hike. Similarly, my daily commute on BART reminds me how fortunate we are to live in an area that is so diverse and so tolerant of those differences. Ideally, I’d love to see more mixing of the two — that is, more diversity of people in the open space which surround us.
BN: What’s your favorite park, hike, or place to go in nature in the Bay Area?
SG: I prefer to ‘get-away’ on the weekends and that means hiking outside of the national park. So one of my favorites is a loop on Mt. Tam that starts at Rock Springs, meanders down the Kent Trail to Alpine Lake, then loops back via the Helen Markt and Cataract Trails. I’d do it once a week if I could!
Visit the GGNPC website to learn more about the Conservancy’s work and programs.