Bay Nature magazineSpring 2019

Bay Nature Local Heroes

2019 Youth Engagement Hero Tina Cuevas Inspires Trail Outings

March 25, 2019
Tina Cuevas
Tina Cuevas. (Photo by Andrea Laue)

When Tina Cuevas quit her tech marketing job, her dad said: “Well, you tried it, that’s good. Now what do you want to do next?” She wanted to pursue her passion for people and the outdoors. She joined the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council as its volunteer and events coordinator. Her dad immediately signed up to volunteer. Cuevas, now 26, cites his boundless enthusiasm and constant support as the reason she continues to do the work she loves. 

After her dad passed away in 2018, Cuevas became even more determined to provide others with that same inspiration.

The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council is a nonprofit with a mission to plan, promote, and sustain a connected multiuse trail on the ridgelines surrounding San Francisco Bay. So far the group has connected 375 miles of hiking, cycling, and equestrian trail from Napa to Santa Clara counties.  It’s just 175 miles short of completing the 550-mile trail, and Cuevas’ job is to help the public fall in love with it. In her year and a half with the council, she’s helped coordinate 32 Ridge Trail outings for more than 1,300 people, including eight nights of overnight camping. Under her leadership, 550 people volunteered to work on the Ridge Trail in 2017, spending over 3,200 hours maintaining, restoring, and constructing new trails. 

A defining presence on her small team, Cuevas has a grounded nature and ability to see a way forward that defuses even the most stressful situation, colleagues say. “She has a calm under pressure that is unparalleled,” says Liz Westbrook, Cuevas’ manager and trail director for the Ridge Trail. “She takes a leadership role in managing our stress. Her presence makes us feel so much better.”

But when she organizes volunteer days, Cuevas says, it’s the volunteers who inspire her. “Seeing people plant trees, then get excited to come back in a year to see how they’ve grown, that’s incredibly gratifying. I love the joy that people feel when they’re accomplishing something.” 

Beyond her work at the Ridge Trail, Cuevas wants to help bring more kids outside. She’s applying to environmental education graduate programs to study childhood development and the impact of nature on the brain. From there, possibilities abound. “We just see that she has a lot of potential, and we know that she’s going to be a leader in the field as she continues to grow in her career,” Westbrook says.

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