Featured Volunteers


(Scroll down to view bios.)

7.31.2020 Marcy Beck

7.24.2020 Christopher Szecsey

7.10.2020 Gail Steele

7.3.2020 Bea Brunn

6.26.20 Norma Jellison

6.19.2020 Larry Williams

6.12.2020 Amy Racina

6.5.2020 Jamie Archer

5.29.2020 Mike Roa

5.22.2020 Rich Lawton

Greg Armstrong

Linda Fisher

Bill Bambrick

Hollis Bewley

Joan Bacci

Joyce Bacci

7.31.2020  Marcy Beck  

Tell us a bit about yourself: your professional career, family, hobbies. (feel free to go into detail)

Philadelphia, Chicago, Pasadena, Northern California.

Sought solace in quiet outdoor spaces as a child to escape stifling home environment.

First connected to environmental work when I met my husband Jim at the California Institute of Technology where he was a student and I served as a summer associate participating in undergraduate research on air pollution. When I arrived, the smog was so thick that the San Gabriel mountains adjacent to the campus were not visible. Am fortunate to have worked in public, private and nonprofit sectors addressing organizational change and budget needs; program development for energy efficiency, environmental and climate change research; and supporting staff in finding meaningful footholds for their work. Music and poetry when the muses present. Two sons, one daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, all much loved and too far away.

When did you start volunteering with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and State Parks?

A meeting with Executive Director Michele Luna in 2012 resulted in the opportunity to support Stewards through program development and grant writing, and that evolved into an invitation to join the Stewards’ Board. I’ve been fortunate to serve as an events volunteer and a participant in Pond Farm Pottery program planning and implementation as well.

Why did you choose Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods to volunteer?

~the opportunity to support a nonprofit organization working to preserve, restore and convey the importance of park stewardship in some of the most beautiful public lands in northern California.

~ the inherency in Stewards’ geographic scope of responsibility to be able to demonstrate the environmental interconnectedness of the coast, the redwoods and the watersheds in between.

~ the multifaceted responsibilities under Stewards’ aegis, including its institutional relationship to State Parks, volunteer leadership and support, operations and maintenance responsibilities for public lands, visitor center education and sales, school programs, docent support to visitors, music in the redwoods, Pond Farm Pottery, and community engagement.

Have you volunteered at other locations? Where? What was your role there?

Prior to working with Stewards, I served on the Board of The Volunteer Center of San Francisco, and I continue to support the Friends of Villa Grande in western Sonoma County, where I work on hands-on stewardship activities to help preserve Patterson Point Preserve. I also currently serve as a working member of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), which documents, contextualizes, and analyzes changes to public environmental data and governance practices, with the goal of improving environmental data stewardship and promoting environmental health and environmental justice.My work focuses on federal environmental agency website monitoring and reporting.

Through volunteering, what areas are you most passionate about?

~ climate change and environmental justice

~ environmental stewardship and protection

~ ensuring ongoing funding for the important work that Stewards carries out

~ reading, writing and sharing nature poetry. (So fortunate to have had the unexpected pleasure of helping to organize a Poetry in Parks program at Armstrong SNR on behalf of Stewards, and working together with Bay Area poets and State Parks!)

With Stewards, what areas of interest are you concentrating your efforts upon right now?

~funding/fund-raising strategies to help address recovering from Covid19-related revenue losses.

~supporting the implementation of our Diversity & Equity commitments integral to Stewards’ identity going forward.

Where is your favorite “secret spot” that you would be willing to share with hikers that visit the Armstrong Redwoods or the coastal areas, and how do they get there?

I’d have to say that it is the vastness and infinite variety of the areas comprising our parks that motivate my explorations, providing any number of singular communings in both space and time. How much better does it get than to be able to traverse our stunning coastal ridges to the clean cadence of the ocean’s lure and breathe in, then find our way to the folded silence of our still standing redwood forest and breathe out?

What advice do you have for others that would like to volunteer?

Volunteering offers myriad ways to learn as well as to give.

7.24.2020  Christopher Szecsey

Hi Chris! Tell us about yourself!  My professional work is still as a consultant, trainer, & facilitator--26 years now, primarily focused on strengthening the capacity of nonprofits/non-governmental organizations, both in the USA & around the world. Over my professional career, I have carried-out international development assignments in 50 countries. Also, I do a lot of consulting work in developing & supporting multi-stakeholder collaboratives working towards shared goals.Before becoming a consultant, I worked & lived in three countries in the Asia/Pacific region for 12 years as the Field Director of Save the Children, & as a Project Director for UNDP. Going back even further, I was a staff member for 4 years at the Farallones Institute, the predecessor organization to the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (OAEC). My active engagement with environmental education began at the Farallones Institute & continues today. My wonderful family members are Mary Szecsey, recently retired CEO of West County Health Centers; son, Nikolas, who is a long-term staff person at Stewards; & my older son, Aron, who is a senior engineer at Tesla. Mary & I are part of a land partnership on a beautiful piece of paradise in West Occidental. We steward the land, & just last year concluded a conservation easement with the nonprofit Bodega Land Trust to protect & enhance 55 acres of mixed coastal forest & prairie grasslands. This past January, with the support of the nonprofit Forest Unlimited & 70 volunteers, we planted 1,000 redwoods for the future, as the best tree species for carbon absorption & storage!

We continue to pursue & enjoy a self-reliant rural lifestyle, by living in a passive heated & cooled energy-efficient home; using solar generated energy for our home as well as for charging our electric car; producing food from our veggie garden & fruit orchard, etc. while also caring for the natural resources around us.My hobbies are gardening, hiking in nature, dancing, international surfing, etc.

When did you start volunteering with Stewards of the Coast & Redwoods & State Parks? I have known about the important work of Stewards for years but only began working with the organization about 4 years ago, when as a consultant I supported its multi-year strategic planning & one-year action planning. At Steward’s invitation, I then joined the Advisory Board, & have been involved in different volunteer activities, such as helping with board retreats, Family Day, buying auction items, etc.

Why did you choose Stewards of the Coast & Redwoods to volunteer?  I have been in love with Mother Earth from an early age. My family used to visit Yosemite National Park every summer for our annual family vacation. When I got older, I worked in the park during summer vacations, both in the valley & in the high country of Tuolumne Meadows.  Growing up in the environmental movement of the ‘70s helped me to learn about & appreciate how important Mother Nature & our parks are, as well as those organizations, like Stewards, who steward these irreplaceable natural resources & advocate for our sacred places of wonder & awe.  Stewards is a special nonprofit, involved with critical resource conservation & environmental education across multiple locations. What a gift that we have such a special local nonprofit to protect our natural resources & educate the public. I am honored to be involved with Stewards because of its mission, strategic priorities, competent board leadership & staff management, & its extraordinary volunteer force, like no other nonprofit I know. Also, I appreciate its co-management agreement with CA State Parks, with the unique opportunity of a synergistic partnership of a nonprofit & state government agency. It is wonderful cross-sector model!

Have you volunteered at other locations? Where? What was your role there?  Over the years, I have volunteered with multiple nonprofits, including those with a focus on environmental education & cross-cultural experiential education. My volunteer work has included serving on several nonprofit boards of directors.

Through volunteering, what areas are you most passionate about?  I am passionate about environmental education, how we reach & support the public to understand & & appreciate the critical importance of our natural resources & ecosystems, & the impact underway of dangerous resource extraction, climate change, & misguided “development” of our remaining wild & natural areas. 

With Stewards, what areas of interest are you concentrating your efforts upon right now?  I am pleased to have recently joined Stewards newly launched Diversity & Equity Committee, under the able leadership of Brittany, a board member, & Kimmie, the Project Manager.

This is an important effort to more effectively ensure that marginalized & vulnerable communities have access to & actively participate, as important stakeholders, in learning about and enjoying our parks as well as protecting our collective resources for future generations.

Where is your favorite “secret spot” that you would be willing to share with hikers that visit the Armstrong Redwoods or the coastal areas, & how do they get there?  My favorite public places-not really secret-are the grassy sand dunes of Salmon Creek Beach, if carefully walked through in the right places, & the hike in Armstrong Woods from beyond the picnic bench area way in the back by the restrooms, on that amazing trail that goes almost straight up to the high crest trail. What a treat!

What advice do you have for others that would like to volunteer?  Do not be shy! Jump right in. Volunteering is easy! It is freely offering to do something to make the work go lighter for us all, including for Mother Earth. It is an opportunity of a lifetime for which you will be rewarded in ways you had not thought about beforehand. Explore & enjoy volunteering! During this challenging time, our nonprofits need support. All hands on deck!

7.10.2020 Gail Steele

Photo taken with Gail, her daughter Jane and granddaughter Hadasah - May 2019
Obituary written by Gail's family

Gail Steele, 18-year member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, 2-term Hayward City Council Member, founder and director of the Eden Youth Center, and 58-year resident of Hayward, passed away on June 25, 2020, with her children and beloved dog, Rosie, by her side. She was 83. Passionate about the welfare of children, the care of animals, advocating for better mental-health services, protecting the environment, and nurturing her garden, she would go out of her way to help both friends and strangers in need. At once quirky, candid to a fault, stubborn and emotional – she cried easily – her engaging and folksy manner gained her friends and supporters across the East Bay.

Gail’s childhood was as unusual as her adult life. She grew up on Pond Farm, a famed artist community founded by her parents, Gordon and Jane Herr. Located above the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve outside of Guerneville, California, Pond Farm was a place that gave refuge to eminent artists who fled war-ravaged Europe. While she admittedly didn’t have an artistic bone in her body, she grew up around people who had lost home and family while championing artistic and religious freedom. They served as an inspiration to achieve despite adversity.

Gail was valedictorian of her high school class, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from UC Berkeley. In 1985, while working full time, raising her four children, she completed a master’s degree in public administration at USF. While at Berkeley, she met and later married John “Jack” Steele, a rank individualist who never shied away from a fight for a just cause. They were a perfect match. As newly-weds, they lived as free spirits in a Volkswagen bus for nine months while crisscrossing Europe. Their eldest son was born in France during this adventure. Upon return to California, they settled in Hayward and had three more children. One last great sojourn abroad took them to Austria for two years where Jack taught as a Fulbright Scholar. Their youngest son was born in Vienna.

Gail became an active member of the community, passionately championing causes in the aid of children and families, mental health, and the environment. Joining the League of Women’s Voters led her to run for office. In 1974 she won election to the Hayward City Council by 32 votes. The next time she won by a landslide. During her eight years on City Council, she fought for several key environmental issues. She also continued to advocate for children, juvenile justice reform and mental health services. Gail envisioned a place where many services could be available to families and founded the Eden Youth Center in 1976. She worked as the Executive Director from 1978 until 1992. She continued to be on the board until her death. In 1977 Gail helped launch and run the annual Hayward Volunteer Recognition and Awards dinner.

Gail served on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors from 1992 until 2010. During this time she became acutely aware of the fact that children were dying by violence and no one was talking about them. Gail said she lived with grief her whole life. She lost her brother, mother and grandmother before she graduated from high school. She lost her husband in 1982. She understood grief and wanted a place where families could remember and grieve for a deceased child. She started the Children’s Memorial Grove above Lake Chabot where an annual commemoration was held to say each child’s name and let families mourn together. The Children’s Memorial Program was adopted as a national program by Congress in the 1990s, as a remembrance to be observed annually on the last Friday of April. In her retirement she continued to be active with many organizations as well as raising her youngest grandchild.

Gail loved to garden and had a large one that she nurtured. Her garden was the site of the annual Hayward Democratic Club Fundraiser for 30 plus years, as well as several weddings. She often brought flowers to work and to people who invited her to dinner. Gail loved to be with her family and hosted countless birthdays, family celebrations, and monthly get-togethers with friends. She is survived by her children Tim, Jane, Todd, and Sasha Steele; her grandchildren Joshua, Eliana, Hadasah, Jason, Ivelisse and T.J., and six great grandchildren. A private funeral will be held at Lone Tree Cemetery, to be followed with a zoom service. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Eden Youth and Family Center.

7.3.2020  Bea Brunn

By Norma Jellison

Stewards recently lost one of its first interpretative program creators, Bea Brunn -Whale Mother to the many Whale Watch volunteers..

For over 30 years, from the inception of Whale Watch in 1986 until she stepped down in 2016, practically every weekend from January thru April or May you would find Bea Brunn at Bodega Head aiding visitors hoping to see the migrating Pacific Gray Whales.

Whale Watch, along with Seal Watch were the first interpretation programs and the origin of Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, then called Stewards of Slavianka - the Russian name for the Russian River.

In the 1980s, the early years of Whale Watch, Bea often was the only docent on the Head, helping hundreds of visitors see whales and sharing whale facts. Rangers occasionally would join her in those early years, until their time was taken up exclusively covering the many miles of beaches along the Sonoma Coast. The volunteer corps followed and grew over time.

Every year until she retired, Bea would educate the new volunteers, and the returning docents, in preparation for a new Whale Watch season.

I remember Bea's whale watch sessions involving all the things you'd expect - answering questions, helping visitors actually see the whales...Bea loved talking to the kids, answering their questions, and asking questions for them to think about, like comparing a whale's size to that of a school bus, and asking which do you think is bigger? Lois Benson WW Volunteer since 1994

Very sorry to hear Bea is no longer with us. She was positive, enthusiastic, and an excellent environmental educator; very deserving of the “Whale Mother” moniker. I feel very fortunate to have received my first in-depth education about the migrating gray whale and the greater Sonoma coast ecosystem from Bea, as well as being exposed to an amazingly dedicated gray whale interpreter. I will be forever grateful for her mentorship and support. Richard Shipps, WW volunteer

That is the saddest news. I really learned so much from her. She was my inspiration to continue with WW for many years. 🐋Michele Sokol

Bea also sharpened her interpretive skills and vast knowledge of the ocean environment by leading public tours beginning in 1985 at Bodega Bay's Bodega Marine Lab, a cutting edge ocean research facility of UC Davis. She also volunteered at Bird Rescue for many years. Bea gave freely of her time and knowledge visiting local school class rooms, giving talks and leading field trips for Elder Hostel and other organizations.

Bea passed the coordinating baton to Rich Draffin, Norma Jellison and Colleen Draffin in 2016.

She peppered her Whale Watch docent trainings with entertaining stories from her abalone diving days and pelagic boat trips off the coast. In 2000, traveling to Laguna de San Ignacio, the premier Baja Gray Whale mating and calving lagoon and sanctuary, was a highlight for Bea and husband Richard.

Adorned with multiple whale pins, rings, earrings, necklaces and the requisite whale sweatshirt, Bea would wax enthusiastic about her favorite marine mammal. She became a well known figure at the Head and many return visitors ask about her and share stories about her knowledge and helping them see the migrating Gray Whales.

Bea leaves a legacy of hundreds of docents trained to speak knowledgably about Pacific Gray Whales, the ocean and the Head. Whale Watch docents, thanks to her, share a love for the Pacific Gray Whales who grace us with their presence every year as they migrate south and back north past Bodega Head.

Few can match Whale Mother Bea's knowledge and enthusiasm for the Pacific Gray Whales that pass by Bodega Head. I and others who now interpret the migration were inspired by her dedication and blessed to spend time with her. We will miss her. Norma Jellison, Whale Watch Coordinator

It has been suggested that we gather at Bodega Head near Bea's birthday, January 23, 2021 to honor her legacy and all that she contributed to Stewards and the State Park Whale Watch program that she nurtured for so many years. Thank you Bea for all your inspiration, dedication and loving stewardship for the whales along our Sonoma Coast that you cared about so deeply. ~ Michele Luna

6.26.2020  Norma Jellison

Tell us a bit about where you are from, your family, and what brought you here to Sonoma County? 

I grew up in Western Pennsylvania in a small town on the Ohio River about a half hour from Pittsburgh. Wandering in the forest surrounding the family home, I came to love the plants, animals, birds - all the
wildlife - that inhabited it. My father especially fostered a love of the land and respect and stewarding of the environment. He and I attended the first Earth Day celebration in Pittsburgh! Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are from Ohio State University. I worked for a number of agencies in Ohio (Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Agency) before moving to the Bay Area. My first job here with the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) involved writing the Environmental Impact Report for the 9-County Bay Area Environmental Management Plan. I am currently the Real Estate Manager for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. I lived in the East Bay for many years, serving on the City Council and as Mayor of El Cerrito before moving to Bodega Bay full time in 1995. I wanted to be close to the ocean and engage in environmental advocacy for the coast.

How did you first find out about Stewards, when did you first become involved? I am told you coordinate the Whale Watch program, and you used to be involved in Seal Watch. How did you become involved with those programs with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods? What attracted you to volunteer?

Looking to volunteer with a coastal environmental program that would allow me to engage with the public and share my love of the ocean and its denizens, I discovered Stewards of Slavianka (the original name) and signed up for Seal Watch. I met and spent time on the beach with the Harbor Seals, Dian Hardy, founder of Seal Watch, and Dr Joe Mortenson, who counted seals along the Sonoma Coast for many years. Engaging visitors to appreciate that the mouth of the Russian River and its estuary is a magical place is important to its protection. I am proud to have advocated for and ensured (with the help of Dr Joe's data), that USFWS and the Sonoma County Water Agency included protections (based on the Marine Mammal Protection Act) for the Harbor Seal colony in their Estuary Management Plan. Ultimately, this evolved to the ongoing Pinniped Monitoring Program. I added roving tide pools, nature hikes and talks and events/festivals to my volunteer resume. And then, Whale Watch, which became my passion.

Whale Watch -
Once I discovered that rather than being tiring questions heard repeatedly "Seen any whales today" or "What is the best time to see the whales" those are an opening to interpretation, I was all in on Whale Watch. Whale Mother Bea Brunn, founder of Whale Watch, took me under her wing. I studied and learned more about Pacific Gray Whales and other marine mammals and pelagic birds that pass by Bodega Head or can be seen on offshore rocks.

Having visited the Gray Whale mating and calving lagoon of Laguna de San Ignacio, I monitor research of the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program. I also monitor seasonal reports of the LA American Cetacean Society, USFWS and research by marine mammal scientists. I also keep in touch with other volunteer whale watch program leaders.

Bodega Head is a magical place, much like the mouth of the Russian River. It has the added attraction of geology/the San Andreas Fault and the story of a group of dedicated determined citizens who stopped PG&E from building a nuclear power plant there. Not to mention that the campaign to Save the Coast and insure public access started in Sonoma County and resulted in the CA Coastal Act.

What is the most important coastal issue that you would like people to be aware of, and how can a person go about helping?
Climate change, including but not limited to sea level rise, increasing ocean temperatures and associated changes to fish and all marine life is the coastal issue that will challenge us for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, our citizens will continue to want to Save the Coast for the benefit of future generations.

What are your interest when not volunteering with Stewards?
I walk the beach and pick up plastic and other trash. Every little bit helps keep it out of the ocean! And I do my best to show up and speak at public meetings, write letters and advocate for the health of the ocean and protection of the Sonoma County coast so we don't end up looking like LA/Malibu and other over developed coastal communities.

What is the best time of year and where would a person go to whale watch?
Stewards Whale Watch program is dedicated to interpret and assist the public to see the Pacific Gray Whale migration. We are at Bodega Head weekends Noon - 4 from January to the end of May, weather permitting. No guarantees to see a whale. However, the aid of committed and knowledgeable volunteers ups the ante.

Why do you think it is important for people to volunteer?
Sharing a love for something, focusing beyond self is important. Pick something - be it the ocean, a special place, a love of flowers, butterflies, birds, history. Share your enthusiasm and passion for the topic with children and adults alike. If only for a short time, their time spent with you as you share will make a difference in their lives - and yours. 

6.19.2020 Larry Williams

I went to high school in Richmond, and eventually moved to Sebastopol in 1975. I have 3 kids, and my oldest works for the National Forest as a medical liaison. I am currently engaged to my woman, Cynthia, who is a roving docent with Stewards. I've been living in Forestville for 37 years.

Through animal tracking, I met a few people from Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. That is how I found out about Stewards. I then decided to come take one of their classes. Five years ago, I took a course with the local Jr. college because I wanted a change in my life, and became an animal tracker. Stewards offered a parallel course. I have now been with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods for approximately 4 years as a Roving Docent.

The most rewarding thing I have found through volunteering with Stewards, is not only talking with the visitors at Armstrong Redwoods, and answering questions, but also giving answers to questions they didn't even know they had! There are also the health benefits that go alone with volunteering - being a hiker and biker. A few years ago, I was in an accident, and my pelvis was fractured. I was 65 years old. The doctor had mentioned that he was surprised I was healing so quickly, and surprised I did not have a shattered pelvis. I told him that I do a lot of hiking and mountain biking, and he said that he believed that is what saved me, "... that's why... your muscles and tendons held you together!" People need to embrace the health benefits that accompany being in the forest.

When not volunteering with Stewards, I am working around my house, riding my bike, and animal tracking. The whole year I enjoy biking, but especially during mud season, I get to enjoy animal track and sign.

I also have business called M BATS (Mountain Bike Animal Track & Sign). Certified animal tracking and signing guide service. I take people out on bikes or hiking, looking for animal tracks and signs. We go to riverfront areas, Willow Creek, or above Ridge Trail (above Armstrong Redwoods). Sometimes we find things during the hike/bike that most don't see... such as being able to find and identify a burned out tree trunk that has sat dormant for over 50 years... and then sent out a shoot 35 years ago! You can tell by the swirls in the tree. Once you get off the forest floor, you'll find the tracks and scat of bobcat, fox, coyote, bear, and many other animals. I have found mountain lion at Willow Creek, Annadel Park and the magical, Riverfront Park. We usually go out for about 2 hours. Often people tell me that they didn't know half of what we discover. (Above photo by Larry Williams)

You can reach Larry at 707-887-7002 or mountainbiketracker@icloud.com – and be sure to check out this article by Larry which was published in the Sonoma County Gazette, Spotting Animal Tracks on a Mountainbike

6.12.2020 Amy Racina

Tell us a bit about where you are from, your family, and what brought you here to Sonoma County.
I was born the daughter of Californian parents. We were a family of west coast refugees who found ourselves growing up in suburban Baltimore. I was raised on stories of towering redwood forests and snow capped sub alpine sierra peaks where the mountains ran with fresh spring water and lupine and wild sage bloomed on green hillsides. There was wilderness for as far as the eye could see, my parents told me, and restless waves crashed on untamed beaches. We spent every summer and all of the holidays camping and hiking in the tamer parks of the Northeast. My folks confessed years later that they took us camping because it was the only family vacation they could afford, but at the time, I only knew that I was especially blessed. In our household it was always a given that everything was better in California. One day, when I was 23, I packed all my worldly goods into my Toyota Tercel, and came home to California. I never went back. Friends and family were surprised, but I was not.

How did you first find out about Stewards, and when did you first become involved with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods?
In 2008, I heard the news that the State of California was planning on closing 45 of our State Parks. Up until then, I had taken our parks for granted. I had assumed that they had been bequeathed to all Californians in perpetuity. Now, I had visions of bulldozers rampaging through the “unused state land” that I had once hiked freely across. I could not stand by and let this happen. Not knowing what else to do, I organized a fundraiser to save our State Parks. My friend Lisa Bacon, finding out what I was up to, introduced me to Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, for whom she was a volunteer and board member. I met some of the Stewards, liked them, and appreciated what the organization was doing. I felt that I could magnify my own impact by joining with Stewards and contributing my skills to their cause.

We know you are excellent at coordinating auctions and special events… What about this do you find most rewarding?
I like the challenges of the unexpected. I particularly enjoy creative problem solving. At special events, there are always new challenges to be solved. Because of a busy schedule, I cannot make a weekly commitment to Stewards. Working for special events gives me the chance to make a difference along with providing the flexibility that I need. I am happy to show up for a weekend and work all of the shifts, or to throw myself into an exciting auction event. It’s great to work with others who have the same interests as I. The Stewards are a fine group of people.

What are your favorite events that you are involved with while volunteering with Stewards?
I love the Fisherman’s Festival in Bodega Bay, with its down-home charm. I especially look forward to the Old Grove Festival, with live music echoing through the redwoods, and the opportunity for volunteers to camp for just one night in our beloved Armstrong Woods. Campground Hosting at Bullfrog Pond will always be dear to my heart. I adore watching the gentle wildness of our remote little campground work it’s magic on families.

What are your interests when not volunteering with Stewards?
I live in Healdsburg with my man, Mickey, and three very spoiled cats. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my first grandchild, Oliver Fox Racina, later this month. Other than working and volunteering, I like to travel, internationally and domestically. I’ve been to more than 23 foreign countries, and to almost every State in the U.S. I delight in a good book or a sentimental movie. I enjoy creating new recipes, hiking, backpacking, swimming, and especially camping. I still remember the enchanted camping trips of my childhood.
Some of our readers may be interested in my own true life adventure story, chronicled in my book “Angels in the Wilderness,” published 2004.

Forest or Beach… which is your favorite?
Every day is different. I am a big proponent of not limiting ones choices, if at all possible. Happily, here in Sonoma County we don’t have to choose. We can enjoy the forest in the morning and the beach in the afternoon.

Do you have a hiking trail or special beach spot that you would like to share with people?
My favorite spots are the quiet ones, so you will understand why I cannot share them here. Aside from our own parks, Armstrong Woods SNR, Austin Creek SRA and the Sonoma Coast State Beaches, I am particularly fond of the backcountry trails of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Henry Coe State Park, near Morgan Hill, speaks to my soul. With 250 miles of hiking trails, there is always a place where you can find yourself.

Why do you think it is important for people to volunteer?
Volunteering is a way to share the enthusiasms and the knowledge we have accumulated with others. It costs us little to share what we know, and it can reflect greatly upon the causes and people we influence with that knowledge. My attitude about volunteering is: Choose something you love doing anyway, then find a good cause that wants you to share.

To purchase Amy's book, please visit her website at http://www.angelsinthewilderness.com/

6.5.2020 Jamie Archer

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? I am a San Francisco native, but was raised in Fairfax, where I grew up playing outdoors, playing in the creek. In 1972 I moved to Sonoma County, Guerneville. I’ve been married for 53 years to my husband, Tom, and we have one daughter, Irene, and two grandkids, Amber and John. Before I started with Stewards, I worked with the postal service for 30 years, and during the last 16 years of my career, I was the Postmaster of Bodega Bay. I have always enjoyed the outdoors, and had always been involved as a Brownie leader, or a Girl Scout leader – I love hiking and scouting.

When did you first learn about Stewards? I first became aware of Stewards when I was walking down the street and saw a couple trimming back brush, and I asked them what they were doing. This was back in 2009. I joined, and although never having had worked on a trail crew, I went to a 3 hour orientation and they just had me start in with the burn pile! I started working with trail crew, and have been with them ever since. I love Armstrong and being outdoors. Its great physical exercise and I really like to help maintain the park.

What do you do while working as Trail Crew? Do a lot of brushing - pulling invasive plants, burn pile (love it) and cutting back poison oak from trails. My favorite tool is a big long handled lopper, although other women on the crew use chainsaws and heavy equipment. We remove dangerous trees and storm-damaged trees, we are in charge of wood splitting and bundling (which is sold at Bullfrog Pond Campground), and we install interpretive panels funded by Stewards on the coastal beaches.

What does trail crew watch for while working? Mainly be aware of your surroundings. If doing burn know where water is… watch out for critters, snakes, relocate salamanders. Be aware of falling trees. You will see quite a few animals, but not a lot since they try to avoid us. I’ve seen bobcat, rattlesnakes and wild pig.

Which hiking trails would you suggest? Gilliam Creek (map found here). You have to cross the creek several times. I was cutting poison oak, and I was by myself under a canopy of trees, and I just keep stopping and looking – I saw foot long salamanders in clear pools! Just pristine. It’s very beautiful.
Amber, my granddaughter, loves the Willow Creek trail (map found here). It can take you from Occidental on Coleman Valley Road, up towards Bridgehaven.

Who do you work with? Most everyone is retired, and from all different backgrounds. There usually is about a dozen men, and 2 or 3 women. Bottom line: regardless of age or your ability, you will find something you can do - there is always something. If your not strong, don’t use chainsaw. We can always find something. Hauling branches or chopping things up. It’s great physical work. My husband really likes to help out with weed eating on the Kortum Trail (directions found here), on the coast. We all cover the grounds from Bodega Dunes to Goat Rock up to Russian Gulch. Inland we cover Austin Creek, Willow Creek and Armstrong Woods.

5.29.2020 Mike Roa

I was raised in Santa Clara County back when it was the Valley of Heart's Delight. Our house was on land that formerly held the home of a fruit rancher ... We had many apricot trees, plus almonds, walnuts, lemons, and prunes. A quick climb over the back fence put me in cow pastures that led to chaparral-covered hillsides and a small grove of redwoods. At various times we had foxes, bobcats, deer, raccoons, and other wildlife in our yard. It's little wonder that I developed a love of the out-of-doors, not to mention perfectly ripe fruit!

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hawley, had us write an essay about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wanted to be a professional wrestler. But, in her infinite wisdom, Mrs. Hawley also had us write about our second choice. She had recently shown us slides of her trips around California to visit the missions. I thought it would be nice to have a job with summers off to travel, so I decided that teaching would be my backup career. From then on, I've always thought of myself as a teacher, and have never regretted it.

In 1983 I married J.T. O'Neill, whom I had met in an Environmental Education class. We decided that we didn't want to raise a family in what had changed from the Valley of Heart's Delight to Silicon Valley, and moved to Sonoma County in 1985, with our recently born son, Alexander. Megan joined our family in 1987.

Until her retirement, J.T. was a teacher and counselor at schools in Sebastopol. Alex worked as a planner for the Sonoma County Agriculture and Open Space District until he decided to focus on making videos to help protect our environment. Megan is an elementary school teacher. Guess the (gravenstein) apples don't fall far from the tree!

In 2004 I wrote a guide intended to help teachers who were going to bring their students to visit tide pools. A Guide to the Side of the Sea was published by Ca. State Parks in 2005. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and thought that it would be useful to have a similar guide for teaching about redwoods. I contacted Michele Luna at Stewards, and we worked together to secure funding for Redwood Ed, which came out in 2007, which was when I retired from classroom teaching. That led to my volunteering with Stewards, where I mostly help with tours of Armstrong, but also help with the Steward Ship and docent education.

Shortly after I retired from classroom teaching I took a part-time position as the Sonoma County Office of Education's Science Education Specialist. One of my responsibilities was to organize an annual event called the Science Olympiad, which was a competition among teams of kids from elementary schools. Another thing that I did was to help publicize science and environmental education opportunities to the teachers and others in the community.

That position was eliminated in 2013, and SCOE no longer offers a Science Olympiad. Teachers who had participated in the Olympiad asked me if I would continue to offer the event, so I changed the name to the Science Challenge and have continued to organize it on my own since then. I have also continued to publish a free monthly e-newsletter that I call the Grapevine. Over 1000 science and environmental educators currently subscribe. (If you're interested, shoot me an email at mroa@sonci.net )

I also help organize the North Bay Science Discovery Day, which is an annual event intended to get kids interested in science. That free event typically draws around 15,000 people.

I love serving as a naturalist/docent with the Stewards. Seeing people come to appreciate the beauty and wonder of our coast and redwoods is wonderful. As a classroom teacher I thought of myself as a planter of seeds and fertilizer of my students' curiosity, and I get to continue with that as a docent.

I know that some potential docents feel that they don't have the necessary knowledge to lead groups. If you're one of those folks, rest assured that you can learn! All of the experienced docents are happy to share their knowledge and techniques, and we are all continuing to learn too. If you're interested, let Kimberly know and she'll get you in contact with a docent (or two or three) who would be more than happy to help get you up to speed!

5.22.2020 Rich Lawton

Born in Oakland California. Our family moved to a small ranchette near the foot of Mt. Diablo State Park when I was in the third grade. Spent many hours hiking up the mountain from our back yard. Graduated from High School in 1965 and ended up getting a Masters Degree in Criminology at Fresno State in 1976. Note that I did a hitch in the United States Navy between high school and college. Landed a job with California State Parks in 1977. Spent 30 years working as a State Park Ranger. Met my wife Sheryl while we were working at Pismo State Beach in 1980. We got married in June of 1982 and have two adult children, Matt and Kim. During my last 17 years with State parks I was the Supervising Ranger at Sonoma Coast State Park. Retired Christmas in 2005

When did you realize you were interested in working outdoors?
Grew up in an outdoor family. Spent many vacations camping and hiking. In the Navy I was a diesel mechanic, mostly working on SWIFT boats. My goal in college was to attend Law School and become a Lawyer. While completing my Masters Thesis I realized that working indoors and book work was not my cup of tea. Fell into the Ranger Trainee Class and never looked back.

How did you “discover” working with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and how long have you been with Stewards? Have you worked on other trail crews? 

I became a member of Stewards when I transferred to the Russian River District in 1989. I spent some time as the CAL (Cooperating Association Liaison) and assisted in many training sessions. In the early days we worked with SRJC and had our training accredited with them. When folks completed the training they were given credits towards a degree. That program was eventually dropped by the JC. While working for State Parks I was not allowed to volunteer due to conflicts of interest and violations of FSLA rules. When I retired in 2005 I became a member of the Board and served about 9 years as the Vice President. I have been working with Bill Bambrick on the Trail Crew since the day I retired form State Parks. I have worked with National Parks and a few other local organizations assisting with their trail crews.

What do you do while working as Trail Crew? What areas do you seem to frequent the most (which trails). Which areas do you normally cover?
Have fun, break a sweat (who needs a gym), meet lots of folks enjoying their parks and keeping the parks trails open, safe and available. The first Wednesday of the month we work in the Willow Creek Watershed, Second Wednesday is Armstrong and Austin Creek and the fourth Wednesday is Sonoma Coast. The third Wednesday is either a special day or a week off. We do a lot of mowing and brushing the trails in the spring and early summer. Trail grooming and winterizing in the fall and early winter. Many times there are trees that fall and block the trails which require some fun time using chain saws in a rather technical manner. Ever cut a tree while on the side of a steep slope while hanging on a rope? Building cable steps down to the beach is my least favorite thing to do. Working with the crew is a highlight of each week. Great bunch of folks.

If a person wanted to volunteer with you, how would he/she go about it? Is there any special training involved? Any particular tools he/she should know how to use?
Bill Bambrick is our Team Leader, so contacting him to get the latest information on where we will be meeting next would be a good start. Schedule is flexible, so getting up to date information helps. Go to the Stewards website https://www.stewardscr.org/index.html and look for Volunteer Opportunities. This
will get you basic requirements and you can also download needed forms. As for training and knowledge, we will provide what is necessary (on the job training). Basic tool safety handling and being a Team Player are good attributes. We have many tasks and various skill levels, so do not be shy if you do not like power tools or heavy lifting. We work as a team and build off each others strengths!

Which hiking trails would you suggest for the beginning hiker? Which trail would you suggest for the advanced hiker?
Walking on a sandy beach with the smell of salt air while listening to the crashing waves is always a great hike. Just never turn your back on the surf, Mother Nature is very unforgiving if you disrespect her. Along the Sonoma Coast there are hikes for every skill level and adventure. Several of my most favorite hikes are “The Narrows” in Zion NP, Pelican Creek in Yellowstone NP and the Swift Current Pass Trail in Glacier NP.

What was the most memorable scenery/animal, etc that you have seen while working on the trails?
Great question, Osprey carrying a fish back to the nest, Peregrine Falcons, Whales, Seals and Burrowing Owls along the Sonoma Coast. Badgers, deer, coyotes in Willow Creek, Armstrong and Austin Creek. Birds are everywhere. It is always fun to stay near one of the Teams Naturalist when working. They have a knack of pointing things out. Once while working with a group of Community Volunteers, they were in awe of our office window.

Last but not least, I want to say to each and every Stewards Member. I spent 30 years as a State Park Ranger. To me, being a Ranger was more than just a career, it was a life style. Each of you that volunteer and/or spend your time with Stewards validates my very existence. For that I sincerely thank you. It is an honor to be among your ranks

Greg Armstrong 

Tell us a bit about where you are from, your family, and what brought you here to Sonoma County? I was raised in Malaga Spain until I was 18. Came here to go finish High School and eventually go to Art School in NYC. Started a family in the suburbs of Philadelphia while I worked at an Advertising Agency downtown. Left the East Coast in 2001 first settling in Marina del Rey, Los Angeles. In 2004 after visiting Northern CA, and being awed at the natural beauty, it's unique balance of coast and forest, river and valley, we decided to move to Sebastopol after taking a job at the Press Democrat.

How did you first find out about Stewards, and when did you first become involved with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods? What attracted you to volunteer? After my divorce in 2013, I was looking for activities to do together with my son. I have always been very interested in our natural world and the science behind it. I saw a flier posted at Andy's produce looking for volunteers and announcing an upcoming training. After attending I signed up for Seal Watch shifts once a month, which my son Tristan and I did together for a few years. I was attracted to the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. I thought that the wide scope of the programs they supported offered many interesting ways to be involved in my community while doing something positive, and spending time with my son. What attracted me to Seal Watch was it's amazing location at the mouth of the Russian river and the rich eco system it supported. I believe volunteering is being part "of the solution" in creating strong communities.

I am told you coordinate the Seal Watch program. How did you become involved with that? What do you find most rewarding? After doing it SW for a few years, Mary Follis, who I have always admired for her commitment to our Coast and her kind demeanor, asked me if I was interested in being the volunteer point person for SW. I thought it was a way to ramp up my commitment to being part "of the solution", and hopefully be able to attract more volunteers to experience the joy of spending time educating visitors about our coast, while witnessing the steady passing of the seasons and the cycles of nature that so consistently manifest at the mouth of the river.

What do you find most interesting about seals? Where do you go to watch them? I admire the perfect design that evolution has created in them as a marine mammal. They move through the water with an agility that always amazes me; the fact that they are born pretty much "ready to go" (precocial); how they have developed navigation techniques using their whiskers that we are only beginning to understand; their remarkable bio rhythms adapted for sea and land; that our seals are uniquely California–the are part of our community. I could go on. Besides at the river, I like going to Point Reyes. Recently, Freida Weiss, who is another volunteer, and I had the pleasure of seeing the Marine Mammal Center release "Scrabbles" to the Point Reyes colony, a Neonate she and I rescued the day after Elinor Twohy passed away.

If a person wants to become a Seal Watch volunteer, what type of background is needed? Are there any classes or books that you might recommend? The prerequisite for being a good Seal Watcher is curiosity, which for me, opened up a desire to learn as much as I can about our California Coast. I regularly attend Sarah Allen's lectures and read her field guides; I became a Certified CA naturalist through the Stewards; I scower the web for scientific information relevant to Seals and the Coast.

What are your interest when not volunteering at Stewards? I'm a graphic designer, so anything that is image driven gets my attention!

Linda Fisher 

I grew up in Vermont where I had lots of opportunity to be outdoors. I was an avid hiker, skier, paddler and nature lover from a young age and continued that love at the University of Colorado. Following a degree in teaching from Brown University, I worked and traveled in Chile, Europe and Japan before coming to the San Francisco Bay Area where I became a graduate gemologist and opened a custom jewelry store. After 25 years, it was time to retire, and the choice of where to live after I sold the store was very easy. When I took my first canoe trip on the Russian River in 1982, I knew this was the place I wanted to retire to. The Russian River reminds me of the lake I grew up on in Vermont so finding a place with river access for canoeing was my goal. That was happily accomplished when the perfect house in Villa Grande came on the market.

I met my wife, Leah Norwood, 40 years ago playing recorders, and music is still a big part of our lives. We travel a lot to see birds both locally and around the world. (Naturally, now our travel plans are on hold) After attending a Stewards open house in 2004, I realized that volunteering for this organization would be a perfect match for my skills and passions. There was a real need for a coordinator at the Jenner Visitors Center, and I fell in love with the place. The view is always a delight regardless of the weather, and the people who stop by for information are wonderful. I often get more information from them than I give out!

When I started volunteering, the Stewards Office was still at the Jenner Volunteer Center so the space was very limited(This was when the current office was being renovated). There were only a few volunteers and it was hard to keep it open very much. Once Stewards moved back to Armstrong Woods, we had lots of space and we were able to get more volunteers. Today the JVC is open seven days a week thanks to the wonderful volunteers who love the JVC as much as I do. Many of them have been at the JVC for more than 10 years.

Some years ago, Leah and I collaborated on a book called 52 Bird Tales. Leah wrote the text which was a collection of newspaper articles she wrote for a local paper,The Russian River Times, and I complimented her stories with photographs. Copies of the book are available at both the JVC and Armstrong Woods VC.

Locally, there are many wonderful birdwatching spots. One of the best is Bodega Bay, especially in winter when the it abounds with Horned and Eared grebes, Bufflehead and Ruddy ducks, Common loon, Brant’s geese and many shorebirds. Peregrine falcons and Bald eagles feed in the bay. The mouth of the Russian River is another excellent place to watch birds and harbor seals. Here, one can see gulls, cormorants, terns, pelicans, and if you are lucky, a pair of Bald eagles fishing.

Linda's Book, 52 Bird Tales, can be found here.


Bill Bambrick

Stewards: Tell us a bit about yourself: your professional career, family, hobbies.
Bill: After a career developing and implementing computer applications for manufacturers, I moved from Silicon Valley to Sonoma County in 2001.

Stewards: When did you start volunteering with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and State Parks?
Bill: December of 2002 I attended a whale watch orientation and joined the Stewards. I had multiple unsuccessful opportunities to see whales and thought volunteering for whale watch would improve my chances of finally seeing them. At the orientation I found out about the other programs offered by the Stewards and by the end of 2003 I was on the trail crew and a volunteer just about every Steward’s programs, except the visitor centers.

Stewards: Why did you choose Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods to volunteer?
Bill: Each of the Steward’s programs offer a chance to learn and make it possible to schedule my time to take advantage of the rich natural environment of West County and the coast. I was born and raised in the New Jersey suburbs where public parks were few and over crowded and spent my working life in the “cubical hell” of the modern corporation, far from the abundant natural resources that we in Sonoma County take for granted.

Stewards: Where did your interest first bring you at Stewards, and what areas of interest are you concentrating on now?
Bill: Besides coordinating three trail crew days a month, I’m a volunteer for the Willow Creek watershed, tide pool, seal watch, and the pinnaped monitoring programs. I have been an active member of the Stewards board, having served as board president for about 9 years.

Stewards: How long have you been working the trails at Stewards/State Parks? How many miles (total) do you work on each year? Have you worked at other locations building trails?
Bill: Started on the trail crew early 2003 and became crew coordinator about 5 years ago. I don’t keep track of the trail mileage we have worked. The most important measure of our work is how many tasks we have completed and how well the crew has supported the parks’ operations. We have supported the park maintenance and trail crew and in some cases reduced the cost of the total work effort. The lifeguard tower at Goat Rock was made possible by the funds that were saved by our support of the park maintenance personnel when the beach trails were revamped the at the North Salmon Beach parking lot.

Stewards: Is there such thing as a “typical day” while working in the park?
Bill: Actually we have a number of typical days. Early spring we mow and repair the damage the winter storms have done on the trails, removing downed trees, cutting back foliage, and fixing parts of the trails that have been washed out. During the summer we are working on reducing fire hazards by clearing undergrowth, clearing fire roads, and dead trees. In the fall we winterize the trails by repairing rolling dips, cleaning coverts, and doing whatever has to be done to minimize winter storm damage. We have split wood for campground wood sales, replaced woodsheds in the coast campgrounds, and replaced worn out footbridges on the trails.


Hollis Bewley - Tide Pools, Seabirds

Hollis Brewley is an inspirational docent and a popular volunteer program coordinator for both our Tidepool Education and Seabird Monitoring programs. She goes the extra mile to keep her volunteer engaged with lots of great and fascinating resources to expand their knowledge. Thank you Hollis for all you do for your State Parks and Stewards!

Where were you born? When did you move to Sonoma County? Born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin County with two years in New York City. Moved to West Sonoma County in 1990, and though I recently moved down to West Marin, my heart is still on the Sonoma Coast.

Tell us a bit about your family. I have one daughter who's been living in Indonesia for over 20 years doing wildlife writing and photography as well as logistics, production, camera work, and whatever else is needed for her partner's video production company supporting organizations like the BBC, National Geographic, PBS, etc filming documentaries in that part of the world. I still have her first nature essay which described a "sit-spot" in a forest near our home in San Rafael for a Ranger Rick contest.

What was your professional life? I retired 5 years ago after 40 years of doing hospital materials management with an 8-year hiatus doing graphic design for small manufacturers specializing in creative toys.

How long have you been volunteering at Stewards? When did you join the Board and what is your title? Began volunteering with the tide pool programs and JVC in 2008 and joined the Board in 2010. Had to give up the JVC in 2013 when the Seabird Monitoring program was getting off the ground.

When did you first realize you had a strong bond with nature, specifically tide pools? I grew up playing with crawdads and "water skeeters" in a local creek with Mt Tamalpais in my backyard and don't really remember having an epiphany. My interest in the weird and wonderful adaptions of animals living in the intertidal deepened to another level while reading about the strange life histories of barnacles and periwinkles in Rachel Carson's The Edge of the Sea and began looking at them completely differently.

What is the most interesting experience you have had while at the beach/in a forest. Probably sitting at the edge of the Bolinas Lagoon one night, running my fingers through the coarse sand and suddenly noticing it sparkle with bioluminescence. I had NO idea what that was all about! ; -)

Are you a self-taught outdoors woman, or have you been formally trained? Self taught.

How do you inspire the younger generation to care for the environment? By allowing them the opportunity to explore it on their own, answering (and sometimes asking) questions about what they observe. Youngsters don't have the same relaxed unstructured time to investigate the outdoors that we did and that kind of quiet undirected time is what ignites a sense of curiosity. The greatest pleasure is seeing the light go on as someone experiences this kind of appreciation for the first time.


Joan Bacci

I first came to Sonoma County in the 1990’s after being raised in the bay area. I fell in love with West County while bicycling with my sister and bought my place in the redwoods, then later, met my wife, Peggy Thompson at a women’s weekend event in 2001. I first became involved with Stewards in the 1990’s, volunteering at the Armstrong Redwoods visitor center and lead the volunteer restoration program. I also served on the Board for Stewards.


I first started following the Jenner Bald Eagles the end of 2012. I first photographed them after meeting Linda Fisher at Jenner to move inventory due to possible flooding when the mouth of the river was closed. We headed out up to the overlook after working and one of the eagles was on the teeter totter log and one was on haystack rock. I have been hooked ever since. I have been very fortunate to meet so many nice photographers that have been willing to share tips and tricks. And I like to pay it forward by helping others if they ask about my equipment or camera settings.My favorite birds are bald eagles. As most people that know me, prior to SIP I would spend my mornings at the mouth of the river photographing our local bald eagle pair. I count my blessings that I have had some very amazing experiences watching the bald eagles. The mouth of the river is special place to watch the eagles because there is plenty of other wildlife to watch while the eagles sit for hours trying to catch a fish. I like photographing any wildlife.

The nice thing about Sonoma County there is so much to observe. I have had lots of fun watching bobcats, long-tailed weasels, owls, ospreys, harbor seals, and river otters to name just a few. I have been volunteering at Jenner Visitor's Center since around 2005. I enjoy the interaction with people, and especially enjoy sharing my joy of nature with them, hoping to make their trip more memorable in that way.

Follow Joan on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/joan.bacci.7

Joyce Bacci Turns 90 ~ Happy Birthday! 

By Michele Luna 

Joyce Bacci is turning 90 years old on April 11, 2020 and for many of us at Stewards, she is truly an inspiration. Joyce has been coordinating programs at Armstrong Redwoods SNR as a volunteer since 1997. She first became acquainted with Stewards and Pauline Gilbert in 1995 at the recommendation of Laura Ayes, a neighbor to the park and owner of the Armstrong Pack Station at the time. Pauline and her husband John were the volunteers who founded Armstrong Redwoods programs around 1990. After John's death, Pauline coordinated the tour guide and visitor center programs until Joyce took over. They became fellow "Monday Walkers," a group of adults who walked on various trails around Sonoma County weekly. Within a couple years, Pauline had a plan to transition Joyce into her position. Joyce recalls,"Pauline sent me off through the park with a group of kids without even telling me what I was supposed to be doing. As she started to fail, I became more and more involved with the VC. I always loved the park, the redwoods, and really enjoyed researching the plants and wildlife. Having lived near Pond Farm for 15 years and raising the kids there, I knew the area quite well and enjoyed leading hikes throughout."

 I first met Joyce when she helped me proof the quarterly newsletter and provided Stewards with typography and graphic services, which was her profession for many years. (See more about Joyce in the article by her daughter Dani Bacci)

Joyce's exempliary volunteer commitment to Armstrong Redwoods has earned her a number of volunteer awards over the years. In 2005, she was honored at the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County Awards event as Stewards' and State Parks' Volunteer of the Year. Annie and I were honored to attend this lovely event with her. In 2010, Joyce was awarded the highest honor that State Parks gives to their volunteers, the Volunteer Medallion. In that nomination it was noted that Joyce was deserving of that award because of her "wonderful, patient disposition that keeps volunteers coming back year after year. She is easy going and professional at the same time. She works extremely well with both the volunteers and the staff at Stewards. She is responsible for making bank deposits, stocking inventory and providing lists of items that need to be reordered. She also makes sure the Visitor Center is kept clean and orderly and contacts Park staff when issues pertaining to park operations or maintenance need to be reported. Joyce has also been a tour guide at Armstrong Redwoods for 13 years. She enjoys interpreting redwood ecology to school children and adults alike. She is an amateur botanist and also leads plant identification and wildflower hikes at Armstrong Redwoods, Austin Creek and Sonoma Coast State Park. Joyce is also a member of the Friends of Armstrong Redwoods (FAR) and is truly an inspiration to many. She has provided almost 8,000 volunteer hours to State Parks." 

At this time there are other volunteers and staff who assist Joyce with coordinating the VC but she still handles the weekly accounting and overall she has donated over 18,000 hours as a State Park volunteer since 1997. When I asked Joyce what her secret to good health is she said, ...fresh air...and more fresh air. Until recently, Joyce and one or both of her daughters could be seen walking with their dogs at Armstrong Redwoods frequently. She has always, and will continue to be, an inspiration to me. Thank you Joyce for all your dedication throughout the years.

Reminiscing: Childhood in the Austin Creek Recreation Area

By Dani Bacci, Joyce's daughter

My parents, Joyce and Dante Bacci, bought their 10+ acres a couple of years before I was born in 1954. We had to drive through Armstrong Woods State Park and up the hill, just past Pond Farm Pottery, where a dirt road forked off to the right. My father kept the dirt road maintained with his tractor, and a couple of times had to drive down to where it crossed the creek to bring Mom home from her evening job as a proofreader and linotype operator at the Press Democrat, there being too much water gushing down the creek for the original culvert. We used the road the most, in comparison to our neighbor, Ursula Fahner, a potter. Our aunt and uncle, Millie and Andy Bacci, had a cabin up beyond our house which they visited once in a while. But we were up and down the hill quite a bit, going to Guerneville Elementary School, coming home with our Pop when he was done with work. Mom headed to Santa Rosa for her job while we were at school. A lot of action on that hill!

When my brother or sister or I had a birthday, we would have a lot of kids come up to play. We would all hike down to the pond at Pond Farm and hunt for frog eggs and tadpoles. We did a lot of “catch and release”, as Mom was protective of natural resources even then. We played in the mud down there, and my brother and his friends built a small raft and used a pole to float in the pond. In the summer the pond would dry up except for one fairly large puddle. Mom said that was because of the quicksand in that spot, and to stay out of it. She swears now that she never said that! She had to try everything to keep us under control.....

Several times we had an entire class come up with the teacher. The kids would bring their lunches and we would picnic down by the pond, sitting in the grass. We'd watch the birds fly over, check out the bugs on the plants, blow on a blade of grass so it would whistle in your hands.

My brother, Vic, would have friends come up and they would hike down past the Tom King Camp to Austin Creek and go fishing. They would stay down there all day, and at some point my father would drive down there in his Jeep pickup and pick all the boys up. You could ride in the back of a pickup in those days!

Just below our house, along the road, we had a Calif. Bay Laurel tree, or Pepperwood as we called them, that was huge. At least to us. It had some branches that were parallel to the ground that made it easy for us to climb into the tree. We called it The Monkey Tree. We never nailed boards to it or added to its basic shape, but it was our tree fort. It had a vertical branch that made it seem like you could see forever if you climbed that high. That was the Lookout, and if we thought we heard a car coming up the hill, the three of us would head out the door and go down to the tree. Someone would climb to the top and the other two would hide in the foliage until we were certain it was company that we wanted to see! If it was someone we didn't like, we would stay down there and pretend we couldn't hear Mom as she called for us to come up. She knew what was going on and would stop, but if she did her two-fingered whistle, we knew we better head home fast!

We had a red Radio Flyer wagon that two of us could fit in. We would hang our legs out the sides and drag our feet for brakes. We also had a small red and yellow two-wheeled bike that we could touch the ground and drag feet for brakes also. Sometimes Pop would agree to meet us at the bottom of the hill, in the picnic area, with the truck. He would drive down in front of us and we would fly down the hill in the wagon and on the bike. Very few people lived up there at that time, and we seldom would meet a car in either direction. Marguerite Wildenhain at Pond Farm could hear us coming down and would come out and yell at us to not make such a racket. Pop would be waiting at the bottom, would load our bike and wagon and us into the back, and drive us back up to the house. We wore out a lot of shoes that way!

When we were bigger and could ride our bikes to school, there was a Saturday program called Saturday Rec. We would ride our bikes down the hill, tear through the park on the trails, go to school for a few hours and do craft projects. When it was over, we would ride back along Armstrong Woods Rd. Just before Rio Nido Rd. was Edna Osborn's store. There was a counter that you could sit at, and we'd buy BBQ chips and Dr. Peppers with our allowance money. We'd hang out there for a little while, then ride back through the park and meet Pop in the picnic area at the base of the hill. Again, he would load us up into the back of the pickup and drive us back home, sometimes with a friend along for an overnight.

We had a lot of trails around the house, some going to “secret” places. There was a natural sulfur spring that fed into a trough out there in the woods. If the wind blew just right, you could smell the rotten egg odor at the house. We thought that spring and trough was a bit mysterious.....

If you didn't turn onto the dirt road at Pond Farm, but continued on up the paved road towards where the campground is now, there was a fork in the road and a spot there where two horses were kept. Eventually one passed away, and we called that Horse Heaven. Just past that, where Mom has a bench dedicated to her, we would fly kites. First, in the garage at home, we glued butcher paper to wood that Pop had cut to size. We had to wait for the glue to dry, forever, and then we would find rags for the tails and the ball of string. We would get in the station wagon and drive up past Horse Heaven. There was a short little trail and then we had a perfect spot to catch the wind and fly our kites.

We ended up with a donkey and a pony somehow, and Pop made a small corral area below the house and across from The Monkey Tree. The dirt road forked there, going straight up to our house or turning right and climbing the hill a bit more to go to my uncle's cabin. That fork made a perfect spot to build a small protected area for Sam the pony and Jocko the donkey.

We didn't have neighbor kids to play with, but we had each other and friends up quite often. We played hide and seek, and it could take an hour to find the person that was “it”. In the summer, the Johnson family rented the old white Walker Ranch farm house that belonged to Gordon Herr, right next to Pond Farm. The three boys would come up and run around with us once in a while, and they showed us a new version of hide and seek that was played at night, called Spot Tag. The person who was “it” would have a flashlight and would search for the others with the light. We would hide in trees and stay perfectly still until the light “spotted” us.

We had a rope swing that landed us right in a patch of poison oak once you let go. None of us ever had trouble with poison oak until we moved from there.

When the eminent domain finally went through and we were forced to leave our beloved home and playground, along with other property owners, for the creation of the Austin Creek State Recreation Area, we were devastated. I didn't really understand how that could happen, and it took a long time for me, personally, to heal from an action that seemed extremely unfair. Now, a lot of people are able to enjoy that beautiful area, and I realize that my family and I were very fortunate to be able to have it to ourselves for a long time.

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