Eyes on the Horizon, Boots on the Trail

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Open Space Conference – May 18, 2017 – Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, CA

Navigators look to the horizon to chart their course, and then head towards their destination, one step at a time.

Each year the Bay Area’s parks, open space, and working lands community convenes at the Open Space Conference to share ideas, gain inspiration, and enjoy the companionship of our colleagues and allies. It’s a time to lift our heads up and think about the future. A place to celebrate victories and learn from experience. And an occasion to meet with friends and peers.

The 2017 Open Space Conference – Eyes on the Horizon, Boots on the Trail – will convene 500 members of the Bay Area’s growing and increasingly diverse land conservation community to help envision our region’s future, and bring fresh perspectives on how to help achieve that vision. Participants will hear from leaders in our field, celebrate triumphs that serve as a reminder of progress and success, and discuss the on-the-ground work that’s being done to get us where we want to go. The Conference provides forums for conservation professionals to share their wisdom, platforms for allies and key policymakers, and opportunities for young people who want to contribute their talents and passion to the conservation field. Participants will examine how their daily work feeds a larger vision and moves the critical and exciting field of land conservation and stewardship forward to meet future challenges and opportunities.

More details coming soon!


Please check back, as we are continually adding updated program details to this agenda. Here is a current overview:

The 2017 Open Space Conference theme – Eyes on the Horizon, Boots on the Trail – will inspire attendees to look ahead towards a future vision for land conservation, and explore the current on-the-ground work vital to creating that vision.

8:00am – Doors open

Registration starts, exhibitors are open, and coffee, tea, and pastries are served.

Eyes on the Horizon – Plenary

At 9 am, the “Eyes on the Horizon” plenary portion of the day will begin. Speakers will address topics such as where Bay Area land conservation is headed in relation to our region’s growing population, how climate-smart principles can help mitigate this, and the connection between health and the environment. Confirmed speakers include Ellie Cohen of Point Blue Conservation Science.

Following this we’ll hold a panel discussion that honors major success stories in land conservation borne-from risk-taking. Panelists representing these accomplishments will share their experiences on how these triumphs came to be. This includes Sara Barth of Sempervirens Fund speaking about the hard work and dedication that went into the Cotoni-Coast Dairies being declared a national monument.


We will offer a variety of activities during this 90-minute break that will allow you to explore the area surrounding the Craneway Pavilion, and learn more about regional parks and public lands. Here’s a snapshot of what we have in store for you:

  • Leadership Development Program mentors and mentees meet
  • REI is generously providing bikes so you can take a ride on a nearby trail at your leisure
  • Mountain Hardwear is offering conference attendees one-time passes to their discounted employee store next door to the Pavilion. 10% of the proceeds will help continue to support the Open Space Council’s work
  • Visit the Roving Ranger and One Tam “mobile visitor center” trucks stationed outside the Pavilion
  • Tour the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center
  • Hang out in the REI Lounge
  • Engage with exhibitors in the front of the Pavilion
  • Enjoy spectacular views along the Bay Trail


After lunch, we’ll gather into one of four breakout groups focused on a topic relevant to your work. Each group will have the opportunity to hear panelists’ perspectives on these topics, and then discuss them during a Q&A session.

Attendees will be asked to sign up in advance for one of the following groups during registration, as a limited amount of seating is available in each room:

  • 1. Women in Outdoor Leadership – Hosted by REI
  • 2. Conservation Partnerships: Combining Complementary Strengths to Achieve More
  • 3. Communications – Building a Bridge Between Message Research and Delivery
  • 4. Economic Reports on the Value of Land


*Please note that if you switch groups during the conference, there likely won’t be extra seating available due to the size of some of the breakout rooms.

Boots on the Trail – Plenary

During the “Boots on the Trail” section of the program, speakers will address current work happening in conservation science and on the status of the Parks Bond.

5:00-6:00pm – Wine and cheese reception

6:00pm – Homeward bound


We have invited dynamic people to inspire you at the 2017 Open Space Conference. Here’s who has confirmed so far:

Eyes on the Horizon

Ellie Cohen

Ellie Cohen, President and CEO of Point Blue Conservation Science since 1999, is a leader in catalyzing collaborative, nature-based solutions to climate change. She and Point Blue’s 160 staff and seasonal scientists work hand-in-hand with public and private resource managers, on land and at sea, to reduce the impacts of environmental change and promote climate-smart conservation for wildlife and people.

Ellie is Immediate Past Chair of the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative (californialcc.org), co-founder of the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium (baeccc.org), and Past Chair of the Central Valley Joint Venture (centralvalleyjointventure.org). She is an invited member of the National Wildlife Federation’s Climate-Smart Conservation Team (nwf.org) and serves on the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture’s Executive Committee.

An honors graduate of Duke University and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Ellie was also a recipient of the Bay Nature 2012 Environmental Hero Award for her climate change leadership.

Accomplishments Panel

From Big Risks to Big Rewards: A Year in Review

Sara Barth

Sara Barth joined Sempervirens Fund as Executive Director in 2016 after 12 years working in leadership positions at The Wilderness Society (TWS), most recently as Senior Regional Director for the Pacific and Southeast regions. Sara oversaw TWS efforts to protect wildlands around the country, including successfully preserving over 1 million acres of federal land in California, and she completed a major climate adaptation project for the organization. Prior to TWS, Sara served as an environmental advisor to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in Washington, D.C. Her other professional experience includes working for the National Wildlife Federation and the World Wildlife Fund on U.S. land and wildlife policy. Sara holds a B.A. in Biopsychology from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Breakout Groups

Women in Outdoor Leadership

Rebecca Bear

Director of Outdoor Programs and Outreach, REI

Aniko Millan

Supervising Ranger, Santa Clara County Parks

Alyson Chun

Senior Instructor, REI Bay Area Outdoor Programs

Boots on the Trail

Climate Resilience Panel

Robin Grossinger
Resilient Landscapes Program Director, San Francisco Estuary Institute & The Aquatic Science Center

Leadership Development Program

We care about the next generation of conservation leaders. And we are doing something about it.

We are encouraging young and diverse people between the ages of 18-25 to apply for our 2017 Leadership Development Program.

Stay tuned for details on how to engage as a Participant or Advisor.

The participants will:

  • Attend the conference at a discount ($10-40, no one will be turned down for financial reasons)
  • Meet with at least one Advisor for 20 minutes at the conference to learn about their work and identify a way to meet post-conference
  • Received a written guide on “how to do” the conference
  • Meet with other program participants online before and in-person at the conference
  • Received a complimentary ticket to the Open Space Council’s Gatherings in September and November 2017

Individuals from the following organizations participated as Advisors in 2016:

  • Bay Area Ridge Trail
  • California State Parks
  • GreenInfo Network
  • Institute at the Golden Gate
  • Marin Agricultural Land Trust
  • Marin County Parks
  • Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
  • National Interscholastic Cycling Association
  • Reliable Narrator, fundraising consultant
  • Santa Clara County Parks
  • Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority
  • Save Mount Diablo
  • Sempervirens Fund
  • Solano Land Trust
  • Sonoma Land Trust
  • Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE)
  • Trust for Public Land

Field Trip


Field trip to Concord Hills, Future Home of a New Regional Park, and to the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial Visitor Center

Stay tuned for details

This field trip will take place on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Please check back for ticket information, times, and the departure location.

We are working with the National Park Service and the East Bay Regional Park District to offer an exclusive guided tour of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station site which is slated to become a new regional park and visitor center, with exhibits about Port Chicago Naval Magazine.  The site is currently closed to the public, but this tour on May 17 will provide an opportunity to visit the site on the day before the conference. Please check back to see if these tickets become available. Space will be limited to 24 attendees.


We will create an engaging experience at the Open Space Conference. Our Exhibitor Hall is where a lot of that happens.

Exhibitors are companies, nonprofits, and groups who provide services and products to the conservation community. They want to make a name for themselves, and connect with the right people to work together.


Thank you!

Your generous support helps make this event possible.

Regional Level

Ecosystem Level


Watershed Level






Park Level

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Leadership Development Program

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Institutional Sponsors


Become a sponsor

Photos from the 2016 Open Space Conference

See more on Flickr.

From the blog

Past Open Space Conferences

Browse through past conferences here:

2016 Open Space Conference

2016 Open Space Conference

Act Locally, Think Regionally, Lead Nationally on
May 19, 2016

2015 Open Space Conference

2015 Open Space Conference

Try. Learn. Repeat.
May 14, 2015

25th Anniversary Party
May 13, 2015

2014 Open Space Conference

2014 Open Space Conference

Welcoming, Interacting, Participating on May 8, 2014.

2013 Open Space Conference

2013 Open Space Conference

Breaking Boundaries, Working Together on May 16, 2013.

2012 Open Space Conference

2012 Open Space Conference

Crossing Bridges, Creating Possibilities on May 10, 2012.

2011 Open Space Conference

2011 Open Space Conference

Healthy People, Parks and Communities on May 12, 2011.

2010 Open Space Conference

2010 Open Space Conference

Conservation for the 21st Century: Honoring the Legacy while Embracing our Future on May 20, 2010.