This month, I celebrate my 25th anniversary at POST.
It’s hard to believe it has been a quarter century already. My youngest daughter, now 23, wasn’t even born when I started! So, it’s no surprise that the combination of this milestone and the current state of the world is causing me to be more reflective these days.
Looking back, I am extraordinarily proud of all that’s been accomplished through POST over the past two and a half decades. Project by project, we have safeguarded almost 80,000 acres of open space, farms and parkland — an area more than two times the size of San Francisco. Through this work, we have ensured that iconic places like Windy Hill, Pigeon Point and Bair Island remain as open space with benefits for everyone who lives in or visits our region — including you and your families.
POST has protected almost 80,000 acres since its founding in 1977.
It’s clear to me now that one of POST’s greatest strengths is adapting to change. Over the years, we have worked hard to be prepared when opportunity presents itself and to respond to unexpected curveballs. This ability (plus a little luck at times) has enabled us to successfully execute almost every conservation opportunity we have pursued. It’s been a challenge and a privilege to me personally to have been along for the ride.
Whether preserving a single property like Cowell Beach, which our former president, Audrey Rust, and her small but mighty team secured through a tight six-month fundraising effort in 1988, or multiple properties as we did through our ambitious “Saving the Endangered Coast” campaign which launched in 2001, our success has been the result of sticking our neck out and taking calculated risks to make progress and fulfill our mission. And, looking ahead, I know these same strengths will continue to serve our region well.
Over the past 25 years, I have found joy in almost every part of the process of land conservation. When I first started at POST, I cut my teeth on negotiating land acquisitions. Yes, I had a background in real estate law that helped, but drafting legal documents is a different experience than figuring out what brings a landowner to the table. Or, in the case of my first project, Madonna Creek Ranch, what brings 27 different family members — each holding a fractional interest in the property — to the table, willing to negotiate.
When I look back on the conservation of Madonna Creek Ranch in the hills above Half Moon Bay, I remember both the challenges of a multi-generational ownership structure and the joy of working with one particular family member, a real estate broker, who stepped forward to pull the transaction together. It was her great integrity, knowledge and experience that put the project over the top.
And there have been other aspects of this work that have brought me joy: I have had the chance to work with tremendously smart, capable and caring people along the way. I am grateful and blessed to have landed in a career dedicated to work that I passionately believe in and am committed to. But to work shoulder-to-shoulder with others who share the same passion and commitment? It’s been remarkable.
From fellow staff members to our board of directors, our partners, our donors, and supporters — I am filled with pride, deep appreciation and respect. It is so satisfying to see what can happen when a cadre of extraordinary individuals comes together. Through their generosity of time, money, and expertise, we’ve made a lasting impact on our region that all can enjoy. The protection of lands in the Coyote Valley represents the most recent example of the remarkable achievements possible through working together.
I love seeing the end result of our work too. As I pass hikers in one of the many parks or preserves that POST helped to conserve, I am truly happy to know that their beautiful and invigorating experience is just that. They can experience these places free from the complexities of land negotiations, due diligence, fundraising, planning and restoration that went into the trail they are enjoying.
Two realizations strike me as I reflect on this quarter century at POST. First, we go farther together. As much as I enjoyed the early days of negotiating individual land transactions and moving on to the next project, looking forward, I realize we have a far greater impact through working with our partners to accomplish landscape-scale challenges and opportunities such as Coyote Valley, completing regional trails such as the Coastal Trail and Bay-to-Sea Trail, and re-establishing corridors allowing wildlife to move from the Santa Cruz mountains to the Diablo Range to protect their genetic diversity.
Second, learning is evolving. These days, in particular, are challenging and our ability to adapt is being tested in many ways. From the global pandemic’s impact on how we work together by changing what it means to work together in an office, to challenging ourselves to face the biases we bring to our conservation work, we know we have a lot of work to do to learn, grow, evolve and to bring the benefits of open space protection not just to the natural world, but to all of the people of our community.
This hard work to learn and evolve will stretch well into the future. In light of the recent COVID 19 crisis, shelter in place order and the increasing awareness of racial inequities in conservation, POST’s staff and board is more dedicated than ever to increase equitable and joyful access to our local open spaces.
Despite the obstacles posed by enormous challenges such as the global pandemic, discrimination, and climate change, we continue to work toward our vision of the future: creating a network of protected lands where people and nature connect and thrive. Just four years ago we evolved yet again to focus on four core program areas — public access, redwoods, wildlife linkages and farmland. This approach has elevated our ability to safeguard the most critical open spaces and build upon a growing network of protected land.
To us, the work is as much about preserving nature as it is about the wellbeing of our local communities. It’s about protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink. It’s about safeguarding sources of local food. It’s about ensuring that we all have room to roam here, wild and human alike. It’s about joining with nature to make us more resilient in the face of an uncertain future.
And that’s just the thing. For me, it has always been about moving forward in the face of uncertainty, taking risks and staying committed. It’s about playing the long game over quarters of centuries and working together from a place of joy to preserve forever the careful balance of rural and urban landscapes that make our region extraordinary for the benefit of all.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more