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, and a member of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians speaking about the creation of the Kashia Coastal Reserve.



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
  • 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. Confirmed panelists include Robin Grossinger of San Francisco Estuary Institute & The Aquatic Science Center, Nicole Heller of the Peninsula Open Space Trust, and Matt Gerhart of the California Coastal Conservancy.


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.


Chairman Reno Franklin or another representative from the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians

Chairman, Kashia Band of Pomo Indians


Doug McConnell

Moderator, Open Road TV


Brendan Moriarty

Brendan Moriarty is a project manager at The Trust for Public Land, which protects land and creates parks for people. He is responsible for managing the organization’s land protection program in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. In this capacity he has built partnerships with a diversity of partners, raised $34 million in public and private project funding, and protected nearly 10,000 acres in eight counties across California. His projects have created new urban parks, returned land to a Native American Tribe, protected one of the largest private properties in the Bay Area, and returned badly needed water to a river on the brink. He previously managed conservation easement projects for the Gallatin Valley Land Trust in Bozeman, Montana. He holds Masters degrees in Urban and Regional Planning and in Public Policy from the University of Michigan.


Breakout Groups


Women in Outdoor Leadership

Women are more active in the outdoors and the outdoor industry than ever before. As stewards of the outdoors, we have an incredible opportunity to be at the forefront of welcoming women into our open spaces. This panel will feature local and national female leaders working in land management, outdoor recreation, and conservancy. We will delve into historic and current trends of women in the outdoors, explore promising ways of increasing women’s access to outdoor recreation and careers in the outdoors, and hear our panelists’ personal experiences as women in outdoor leadership. A facilitated question and answer session will follow the panel presentation.


Rebecca Bear

Rebecca is the Director of Education and Local Community Development at REI. She oversees national strategy and operations for REI Outdoor Programs, which includes in-store and field classes, local events, and community partnerships that serve over 350,000 people annually. She serves on REI’s women’s initiative steering committee, and co-chairs the Coalition for Outdoor Access – which focuses on improving facilitated outdoor access for all.  Prior to REI, Rebecca co-founded Passages Northwest, now the YMCA Girls Outdoor Leadership Development program, and spent ten years working with Outward Bound in the US and internationally.  She has a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and a Certificate of Sustainable Business from Bainbridge Graduate Institute.


 Alyson Chun

Alyson joined the REI Outdoor School as a Senior Instructor in February 2016. She primarily instructs rock climbing and kayaking classes, in addition to managing relationships with key partners and coordinating events for the Outdoor School. Before coming to REI, Alyson spent over 5 years living and working abroad as an experiential education facilitator and outdoor educator. Her work has taken her to many countries, including China, Thailand, Turkey, and Botswana. Alyson is passionate about sharing her love of the outdoors and introducing others to her favorite activity – rock climbing.



 Janet McBride

Janet McBride joined the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council as Executive Director in 2006. She has 30 years of experience in the planning and environmental field, spanning private, public and nonprofit sectors. Janet held progressively responsible positions with the Association of Bay Area Governments for 17 years, including Planning Director and project manager of the San Francisco Bay Trail, and also worked for several environmental consulting firms. She holds a Masters degree in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy and Analysis Planning from the University of California, Davis.



Aniko Millan

Aniko Kannas–Millan has worked for Santa Clara County Parks for 23 years, starting as kiosk attendant then serving as a Park Ranger and 12 years as a Senior Park Ranger before promoting to her current position as Park Ranger Supervisor. Her primary responsibilities include Park Ranger Operations in-house training and recruitment, and hiring of seasonal and permanent park rangers.  Aniko’s personal goal is to expose underserved populations and women to the wonders of our parks and open spaces and introduce new ways to play outside. She wants to broaden recruitment of women and people of color to Santa Clara County Parks and the park ranger career as a whole.

Aniko believes in mentoring, planting the seed of interest in our youth and growing them through education, volunteerism and career opportunities to build both advocates for the outdoors and a diverse workforce. Aniko is a graduate of Chico State, with a BS in Recreation Administration, Parks and Natural Resources Management.


Economic Reports on the Value of Lands


Mary Creasman

As California Director of Government Affairs for The Trust for Public Land, Mary Creasman oversees the organization’s statewide policy and advocacy, local Climate-Smart Cities partnerships, public grants program, and local and statewide ballot measures. Mary has a long and successful track record of leading campaigns and initiatives at regional, statewide and national levels as the Chief Strategy Officer of Green For All, the Associate Director of the Partnership for Children & Youth, and the Political and Organizing Director of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. Mary is a Bay Area native and has supported nonprofits across the region as an organizational development and effectiveness consultant.



Robert Doyle

General Manager, East Bay Regional Park District


Patrick Kallerman

Research Manager, Bay Area Council Economic Institute



Andrea Mackenzie

Andrea Mackenzie is General Manager of the Open Space Authority in the Santa Clara Valley which is working to protect and steward the region’s natural capital – our open spaces, water resources, natural areas, and working lands to support healthy land, communities and economies.  For more than 25 years, Ms. Mackenzie has worked in the fields of land use planning, conservation planning, policy and finance, and open space protection for county, regional, state, and national agencies. She has successfully passed open space funding measures in Sonoma and Santa Clara Counties generating over $600 million for land conservation.   She is a past fellow of the National Conservation Leadership Institute and serves on the Advisory Council of the Bay Area Open Space Council, SPUR San Jose Policy Board, and Executive Strategic Council for Valley Transportation Authority.  In 2016, Andrea was named Bay Nature Magazine’s Local Conservation Hero in the San Francisco Bay Region. Ms. Mackenzie earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from U.C. Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Natural Resources from U.C.L.A.


Boots on the Trail


Climate Resilience Panel

Matt Gerhart

Matt Gerhart is Program Manager for the San Francisco Bay Area Conservancy program of the Coastal Conservancy, where he helps to protect and enhance regional natural resources, improve public access to our open spaces and shorelines, reinvigorate our waterfronts, enhance resiliency to climate change, and protect bay area working lands. A geographer by training, Mr. Gerhart has over 15 years of experience in land conservation planning, coastal management, public access development, climate change policy and science.  He is an agency lead for Bay Area climate change and sea level rise efforts, including the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Update, San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, and the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium.  In this capacity, and previously as the program’s Deputy Manager, he has served as an advisor for the Delta Conservancy, Bay Area Open Space Council, San Francisco Bay Joint Venture, California Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Bay Area Regional Collaborative, and San Francisco Bay Area Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.

Previously at the Conservancy, Mr. Gerhart was a project manager for the Conservancy in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties, where he worked on a wide variety of coastal access, forest and parkland conservation efforts.  From 2004 to 2007, he served as the Big River Program Manager at the Mendocino Land Trust, and previous to that as a private conservation planning consultant.  He holds a Masters in Geography from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. from Yale University.


Robin Grossinger
Robin Grossinger is the Program Director and Senior Scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, where he co-directs SFEI’s Resilient Landscapes program. For over twenty years, he has analyzed how California landscapes have changed since European contact, using these data to guide landscape-scale restoration strategies. Robin leads efforts throughout the state to reintegrate natural processes within our highly modified landscapes, creating healthier and more adaptive neighborhoods, cities, and surrounding landscapes. He has advised restoration strategies for San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, urban landscapes such as the Google campus, and rivers throughout California. Robin’s innovative work to synthesize history and science has been acclaimed for helping scientists, managers, and the public appreciate both the dramatic transformation and the impressive resilience of the state’s ecosystems. Recently he has helped develop, with an international team of ecologists, the Landscape Resilience Framework, a systematic approach to recovering ecosystem resilience at the landscape scale. Robin holds a B.A. in Biology and M.S. in Marine Sciences from University of California, Santa Cruz.


 Nicole Heller

Nicole Heller joined Peninsula Open Space Trust as the Director of Conservation Science in 2015. Trained as a field ecologist, she been conducting research and working in the Bay Area since 1999. Her work has been focused on applying climate science and ecological theory and empirical findings to the sound management of California ecosystems. She has led various efforts to forward an ecological resilience agenda across the urban ecosystem through collaborations with colleagues at POST, the Terrestrial Biodiversity and Climate Change Collaborative (TBC3.org), Resilient Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network, and the Amah Mutsun Land Trust. She has authored or co-authored ~ 30 articles and book chapters in ecology, conservation and climate change. Nicole holds a B.A. in Ecology and Evolution from Princeton University, a PhD in Biological Sciences from Stanford University. She conducted postdoctoral research at University of California Santa Cruz, and has held teaching positions at both Franklin and Marshall College and Duke University.

Leadership Development Program

Stay tuned for details on how to engage as an Advisor.

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

The Bay Area Open Space Council is excited to offer the Leadership Development Program for the second year at the 2017 Open Space Conference. We recognize that we need to nurture the next generation of leaders who will work to protect, defend, and steward the parks, open spaces, and farmlands of the Bay Area. In order to achieve this, we need to create opportunities for future leaders to meet, learn from, and connect with current leaders. To facilitate this, we are encouraging young adults between the ages of 18-25 to attend the conference and connect with Advisors whom work in the field.

The application deadline is currently April 30. Here is the link to apply:

2017 Open Space Leadership Development Application

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
  • Have at least one follow up meeting with the Advisor you met at the conference at their place of business. This could be a one-on-one, special access to an event, or meeting with one of their colleagues
  • Received a written “how to” guide that will help get the most out of conference
  • Meet with other program participants online before and in-person at the conference
  • Received complimentary tickets 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


Co-hosted by the East Bay Regional Park District and National Park Service, the field trip will take place on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 from 1 pm-4 pm. A shuttle will pick up attendees from the North Concord BART station and leave for the site at 1 pm, so please be on time to board. There is space for 24 passengers so REGISTER NOW while seats are still available.

The Concord Naval Weapons Stations was established in 1942 on over 13,000 acres and provided munitions storage and shipping through Port Chicago during World War II and throughout the latter half of the 20th century. In 2005, over 5,000 acres of the base located in the grasslands and oak woodlands between Concord and Pittsburg were officially closed and reuse plans began to be developed.

The National Park Service and the East Bay Regional Park District has partnered to develop a Land Use Plan for over 2,500 acres of the closed base that will become a new Regional Park and will include a visitors center highlighting the history of the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial.

The property has been inaccessible to the public since World War II and this private guided tour will provide attendees of the 2017 Open Space Conference a rare opportunity to visit the future regional park. The tour will include:

  • A private guided tour of the future regional park on the former Concord Naval Weapons Station including rolling grasslands, scattered oak woodlands, and panoramic views of the Diablo Valley and Mount Diablo
  • A tour of the grounds of the future visitors center highlighting the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial to be located in abandoned Navy building used for equipment maintenance
  • Interpretation of the sites natural, cultural, and military history
  • An overview of the extensive restoration opportunities and future public access plans


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. Our 2017 exhibitors currently are:


Volunteers help run the conference. They support our staff by setting up the day before, checking-in attendees, passing out lunches, keeping to the schedule, and cleaning up.

In exchange for one shift, volunteers may attend the conference when not on assignment. Please fill out the application below to sign up to volunteer by April 14 at 5 pm. We will contact you if there’s a fit by April 18 or ASAP.

2017 Open Space Conference Volunteer Form


We work hard to make our conference inclusive and accessible, offering a limited number of scholarships each year. If costs prohibit you from attending or if you have any accessibility needs, please complete the application below by April 13. We will get back to you ASAP.

2017 Open Space Conference Scholarship Form


Getting to the conference and back

Even if you’ve never been to Richmond, it is one of the most central and beautiful locations we could find for everyone in the (very large) 10 greater Bay Area counties. There are several ways to get there and back:

  • BART – We will provide shuttles to/from the Richmond BART station courtesy of the National Park Service.
  • Bike – The Craneway is right on the Bay Trail that runs right along the Bay all the way from Emeryville.
  • Carpool – We make it easy to coordinate with people you know, and soon-to-be friends. Sign up here.


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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Foundation 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.