2015 Open Space Conference

Try. Learn. Repeat.
May 14, 2015

25th Anniversary Party
May 13, 2015


Land conservation of yesterday is gone. Today we need to change the way we think and change the way we operate in order to adapt to changing populations, climates, and funding realities. We need to try new things, meet new people, form new partnerships, steward the land in new ways, and identify new sources of funding. We won’t always get it right, but we have to try.

The 2015 Open Space Conference focused on innovation, experiments, attempts, and lessons learned across the broad field of land conservation. 400 Bay Area leaders in conservation, parks and recreation, and resource management – as well as leaders in health, business, and policy – gathered to learn how we can try, learn and repeat individually and collectively.

Learn more about the conference:



25th Anniversary Party

2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Bay Area Open Space Council. To celebrate we threw a party on May 13 from 5-9pm at the Craneway. We honored the founders and what the organization has done over the past 25 years and look ahead.

Juan MartinezJuan Martinez, the Children & Nature Network‘s Director of Leadership Development and Natural Leaders Network, was our keynote speaker. A proud product of South Central Los Angeles, his passion to empower individuals and youth led him to direct Sierra Club’s first environmental justice youth leadership academy. Juan is a The North Face Ambassador and a National Geographic Explorer. In 2009, Juan introduced Department of Interior’s Ken Salazar at Powershift in Washington, DC, and he was invited by the White House to attend the National Forum on Clean Energy Economy. He will speak about the future of land conservation and what we can do to adapt to a changing world.

Around a “fancy campfire” – complete with music from Sonoma County-based Cahoots, delicious food, locally produced wine and make your own s’mores – we gazed upward toward the next 25 years.

Field Trip

Reclaiming Urban Landscapes, Wednesday, May 13 from 2-5pm

Great things are happening along the Richmond shoreline to restore public access in places long closed for public use. East Bay Regional Park District invites you to a tour featuring three environmental projects of great importance to the community. You’ll visit Breuner Marsh, Point Pinole Regional Shoreline and a segment of the SF Bay Trail to see the innovations afoot along Richmond’s shoreline to connect people to parks and open space. You’ll experience a wetland restoration and shoreline accessibility project at Breuner Marsh which has been a decades long focus of community advocacy by residents in nearby Parchester Village, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Richmond. We’ll also include upcoming plans for a Point Pinole Shoreline Visitor Center and progress along the Bay Trail to connect to Point Molate, adjacent to the Chevron Refinery. Staff experts will lead tours of these locations discussing the project’s challenges including funding, environmental permitting, easements and acquisitions.


Select presentations and videos are available below.

9:00am – Welcome and Opening Remarks

Jenn Fox from Bay Area Open Space Council

Blessing of food, place, people

Valentin Lopez from the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and the Amah Mutsun Land Trust

Val Lopez

Proclamation honoring 25th Anniversary

Presented on behalf of Contra Costa County legislative caucus


Welcome to Richmond

Bill Lindsay from City of Richmond

Bill Lindsay

Engagement from the ground up

  • Toody Maher from Pogo Park
  • Doria Robinson from Urban Tilth
  • Juliana Gonzalez from Watershed Project
  • Erica Browne from Kaiser Permanente

Community engagement panel

Try. Learn. Engage.

Kirk Anne Taylor from ChangeScale and Eric Aaholm from YES Nature to Neighborhoods


Together we invest, protect, grow, and eat

Helene York from Bon Appetit at Google

Helene York

Opportunities to turn drought into resiliency

Carlos Suarez from Natural Resources Conservation Service. Click here to see his presentation.

 Carlos Suarez

12:00pm – Lunch

1:00pm – KEYNOTE: Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León

The importance of parks for all Californians, and what we can do together

Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon

The future of public funding for conservation

  • Renata Brillinger from CALCan
  • Robert Doyle from East Bay Regional Park District
  • Sam Schuchat from Coastal Conservancy

Funding panel

Using our Outdoor Voice

Annie Burke from Bay Area Open Space Council on how we can deepen the connection between Bay Area park users and the places they love

Annie Burke


Parks and the East Bay

State Assemblymember Tony Thurmond

Tony Thurmond

New and old ways of conserving land

Hawk Rosales from the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council and Parks Forward Commission

Hawk Rosales

Planning for Stewardship version 5.0

Laura McLendon from Sempervirens Fund. Click here to see her presentation.

Laura McLendon

One mountain, four agencies and one new partnership

Krishna Kumar from Marin Municipal Water District. Click here to see his presentation.

Krishna Kumar

What water conservation means for land conservation

Brian Stranko from The Nature Conservancy. Click here to see his presentation.

Brian Stranko

5:00pm – Wine, cheese and chocolate reception

6:00pm – Homeward bound

Plus! There were interactive activities throughout the day with:

  • Rosie the Riveter visitor center
  • The San Francisco Bay Trail mobile app
  • Create with Nature Zone


We are grateful for the time, expertise, and energy of the following speakers who joined us.

Our Keynote speaker was:

KDL-Portrait-Low-ResSenate President pro Tempore Kevin de León

The first Latino elected President pro Tempore of the California State Senate in more than 130 years, Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) is setting a bold agenda to give every kid a fair shot at a higher education, and to combat climate change while building a new, low-carbon economy with opportunities for all Californians. Leading the Senate of the largest state in the union, Senator de León takes on challenging issues that strengthen the national reach of California’s policy-making. This year, Senator de León’s Democratic caucus has introduced legislation to strengthen California’s climate leadership by pursuing standards that will reduce petroleum use by 50 percent, set a 50 percent renewable energy standard for the state’s utilities and increase building energy efficiency by 50 percent, all by 2030. Senator de León also has introduced a bill to require the state’s public employee pension funds to divest from coal and, by 2050, increase the state’s overall climate pollution reduction target to 80 percent below 1990 levels. Senator de León was elected to the State Assembly in 2006 and elected to the State Senate in 2010. De Leon credits his immigrant mother for teaching him the nobility of a hard day’s work and our shared obligation to build a brighter future for the next generation. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school, later earning a degree with Honors from Pitzer College. He is a Rodel Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California.


The Open Space Conference inspired with the following speakers:

Eric AaholmEric Aaholm

Eric Aaholm has served as Executive Director of YES Nature to Neighborhoods since 2007. While completing his Masters Degree in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley, Eric first joined YES as a bilingual volunteer with its Family Camp program in 2004. In partnership with nature, Eric and his diverse staff work hard to provide pathways for hundreds of Richmond youth, adults and families each year through four interrelated programs that emphasize leadership development in the outdoors and the community. Eric recently graduated from LeaderSpring’s two-year executive director leadership program in October 2014. He has served as an advisory committee for the LEAPS collaborative, as a presenter with ChangeScale, and presently serves on the steering committee for Richmond’s Building Blocks for Kids.


Speaker_Renanta Brillinger
Renata Brillinger

Renata Brillinger is the co-founder and Executive Director of the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN), a coalition serving as the voice of organic and sustainable agriculture on state and federal climate policy. For the past sixteen years, Renata has worked on sustainable food systems projects in a variety of capacities, and has served in numerous non-profit administrative roles since 1992. Prior to CalCAN, she was Program Director at the Climate Protection Campaign, focused on renewable energy and on agriculture. She serves on the steering committee of the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, the steering committee of the Center for Sustainability at CalPoly University in San Luis Obispo and the advisory board of UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute.


Speaker_Erica Browne 
Erica L. Browne, MPH, CHES

Erica Browne is Community Benefit Health Manager for Kaiser Permanente. She has over twelve years of health education and program management experience in the areas of college health, cancer prevention, reproductive justice, HIV/AIDS, and mental health. She holds a Master of Public Health degree with an emphasis in Community Health Sciences from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Development Studies from the International Area Studies program at the University of California, Berkeley. Erica is a Certified Health Education Specialist, and has taught multiple undergraduate public health courses at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a member of the American Public Health Association Community Health Planning and Policy Development section, and participates in multiple, local community work groups.


Speaker_Robert Doyle by Jonathan Hobbs 
Robert Doyle

Robert Doyle is General Manager of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) in the San Francisco Bay area, the largest local park district in the United States, serving a diverse population of users in an urban interface setting, with 15 million visitors per year to its 66 parks and 1,250 miles of trails on over 119,000 acres of open space. He has served nearly 40 years in the parks and open space field, beginning as a park ranger at diverse parks within EBRPD, advancing into the planning and design department, then becoming chief, and later assistant general manager of the land division, where he served for 21 years. Mr. Doyle attended Diablo Valley College, San Francisco State University, and graduated from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga with a BA in Management.


Speaker_Juliana Gonzalez copyJuliana Gonzalez

Juliana Gonzalez is the Deputy Director of the Watershed Project. She has over 10 years of experience in outdoor education, community engagement and ecological restoration. She holds a PhD in Geography from Kings College, London, England and an MS in Environmental Sciences from the State University of New York. A native of Colombia, Juliana also worked on watershed planning and policy development in the Andes. She is a founding Board member of Groundwork Richmond. Juliana lives with her husband and her two children in the Baxter Creek Watershed.


Speaker_Krishna Kumar 

Krishna Kumar

Krishna Kumar is the General Manager of the Marin Municipal Water District, Marin County’s largest water provider. He leads the efforts to preserve and protect 22,000 acres of nationally acclaimed watershed lands in and around Mt. Tamalpais in Marin. Krishna has over 30 years of progressively responsible experience in all aspects of public sector management both in the US and in India.  He held senior positions at the Valley of the Moon Water District, Sonoma County Water Agency and the Reserve Bank of India. Throughout his professional career Krishna has been active in trade organizations including the Association of California Water Agencies and the American Water Works Association. Krishna received his Master of Business Administration degree from the Cochin University of Science and Technology in India.


Speaker_Bill LindsayBill Lindsay

Bill Lindsay has over 30 years of local government experience through his service in four Contra Costa County cities, and has served as the City Manager of Richmond since February 2005.  During Bill’s tenure as City Manager in Richmond, the community has experienced what the East Bay Express, recently touted as a “renaissance.”  Bill states that he himself has experienced a rebirth – an epiphany of sorts – evolving his business roots by embracing and promoting throughout the organization a broad mission of community health that is quite rare among municipalities.  More recently, the City of Richmond continues its leadership in health equity by engaging community based organizations to develop a Health in All Policies Strategy and Ordinance. Bill received a BA in Economics from Yale University and a MBA in General Management from the University of California, Berkeley.


 Speaker_Val Lopez

Valentin Lopez

Valentin Lopez is the Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, one of three historic Ohlone tribes, and is Executive Director of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust. Valentin is Mutsun, Chumash and Yokuts. The Amah Mutsun are comprised of the documented descendants of Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz. Valentin Lopez is a Native American Advisor to the University of California, Office of the President on issues related to repatriation. He is also a Native American Advisor to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. The Amah Mutsun are currently working to have their Federal Recognition Status restored as they were illegally terminated by the federal government in about 1929. Valentin is working to restore the Mutsun Language and is a traditional Mutsun singer and dancer.


Toody Maher

Toody Maher is the founder and executive director of Pogo Park, a grass-roots nonprofit in Richmond that enables residents of underserved neighborhoods to re-imagine and rebuild neglected and abandoned public spaces into safe, clean, and vibrant parks and playgrounds. Toody is an artist, inventor, and entrepreneur. She graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1983 and soon secured the distribution rights to Swatch Watch in the 11 Western states. She managed Swatch’s product launch and helped drive sales in her region from $0 to $30 million in three years. Later, she started Fun Products, which created the world’s first clear telephone with lights, named Fortune Magazine’s Product of the Year in 1990. That same year Toody was named Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2014 Pogo Park was chosen as one of ten finalists in the Google Bay Area Impact Challenge, recognizing local nonprofits that are pioneering innovative approaches to improving the quality of life in the Bay Area.


Speaker_Laura McLendon

Laura McLendon

Laura McLendon has spent nearly a decade working on land conservation projects while at Sempervirens Fund, a land trust based in Los Altos dedicated to protecting redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She currently serves as Stewardship Program Manager for Sempervirens Fund, overseeing the management of over 10,000 acres in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties. Previously she worked on land acquisitions and transfers for Sempervirens Fund, guided the creation of the 224,000-acre Santa Cruz Mountains Redwoods Conceptual Area Protection Plan, and led the development of the Lompico Forest Carbon Project, one of the first forest carbon sequestration projects under the Climate Action Reserve’s Forest Protocols. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology and master’s degree in Anthropological Sciences from Stanford University, with concentrations in environmental science and policy.


Speaker_Doria Robinson

Doria Robinson

Doria Robinson is 3rd generation resident of Richmond, California and the Executive Director of Urban Tilth, a community based organization rooted in Richmond dedicated to cultivating a more sustainable, healthy, and just food system. Formally trained as an Ecologist, Doria has also worked on organic farms in Western Massachusetts where she attended Hampshire College, at Veritable Vegetable a women owned organic produce distribution company, Real Food Company and Mixed Nuts Food Co-op. Doria is a Certified Permaculture Designer, Bay Friendly Gardener, Nutrition Educator and Yoga Instructor and the founder of Sanctuary Yoga, Richmond’s 1st yoga and meditation center, co-founder of Richmond SPOKES, the founder of “A Girl and Her Bike” and a collaborator in Rich City Rides and the realRICH a civic pride organization in Richmond.



Hawk Rosales

Hawk Rosales is the executive director of the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, a nonprofit tribal conservation organization of ten federally recognized Northern California tribes founded in 1986 and engaged in revitalizing traditional tribal stewardship. In 2013, he was appointed by California’s Natural Resources Secretary John Laird to serve on the Parks Forward Commission. Hawk has been a leading figure in tribal conservation efforts, and helped spearhead the effort to protect tribal rights within the state’s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative process.


Brian Stranko

Brian Stranko

Brian Stranko, California Water Program Director, is charged with guiding the California Water Program to set and achieve ambitious water-related goals.  He and his team focus on long-term solutions to providing water for people and for nature in California.  These include managing groundwater sustainably, providing water for priority ecosystems and species and reimagining how our state can use its vast water infrastructure (i.e. our dam and canal system) to better meet the needs of people and nature.  He and his team also engage in on-the-ground projects that demonstrate how to provide water for farms, ranches, vineyards and cities while also providing for fish and wildlife.  He came to The Nature Conservancy in 2009, originally overseeing The Conservancy’s work in the globally significant North and Central California Coast, as well as, the organization’s statewide Salmon Initiative.  He came to the Conservancy after nearly nine years at California Trout (CalTrout), where he served as chief executive officer and executive director. Before CalTrout, Mr. Stranko worked for the National Geographic Society, Trout Unlimited, and the Millennium Institute in Arlington, Virginia. Mr. Stranko has an M.B.A. from Georgetown University, a B.A. from Syracuse University, and environmental policy education from the University of Maryland.


Carlos Suarez

Carlos Suarez became the California State Conservationist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service in January 2013. Carlos began his career with NRCS in October 1992 as a student trainee in Puerto Rico. Carlos has extensive experience serving in a number of technical and leadership positions, domestically and internationally. Carlos has been a member of numerous national-level teams and has served on multiple occasions as an international environmental consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development and The Millennium Challenge Corporation. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carlos holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Mechanization (Engineering) Technology from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, a Master of Science degree in Geoenvironmental Studies from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and a Graduate Certificate in Public Policy and Leadership from American University in Washington, D.C.


Kirk Anne TaylorKirk Anne Taylor

Kirk Anne Taylor is the Director for ChangeScale, a collaborative in the 12-county San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas working to advance the cohesiveness, effectiveness, and prominence of the environmental education field. Prior to joining ChangeScale, Kirk Anne served as the Urban Conservation Manager for The Field Museum in Chicago, developing environmental education programming, facilitating teacher professional development, and supporting student-led, conservation-action projects. While in Chicago, she served as the chairperson for the Calumet Stewardship Initiative, a bi-state consortium of over 40 government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations. Kirk Anne was also a leadership team member of Chicago Wilderness’ Next Generation of Conservation Leaders Working Group and the Chicago Wilderness Education Team. In South Carolina, Kirk Anne served as the Executive Director for Lowcountry Earth Force in Charleston, South Carolina where she worked to expand environmental education programming to a four-county region. She began her career in environmental education as a Naturalist at the Barrier Island Environmental Education Center on Seabrook Island, South Carolina. Kirk Anne holds a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Illinois Chicago, a Bachelors of Arts in English from Hendrix College, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Illinois Institute of Technology.


Speaker_Helene York

Helene York

Helene York has worked for industry-leading national food service company, Bon Appetit, for ten years in a variety of positions, including director of purchasing strategy, and has developed broad strategic programs and supply chains for key products. In 2007, she designed Bon Appetit’s Low Carbon Diet Program which was the first national program to emphasize the significant connection between food choices and climate change. For the past 2.5 years, Helene has been the director of procurement and responsible business for Bon Appetit at Google, overseeing procurement and standard-setting at Google HQs and in 19 countries. In September 2013 she was invited to present a framework for responsible procurement in food service to the National Academy of Sciences’ workshop on healthy food systems. Past speaking engagements include the Nobel Peace Prize Forum and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.



Thank you to all of the 2015 Conference sponsors!

Inkind Sponsors

We are grateful for the in-kind support from:

Clif Organic Trail Mix Bar      Print

MHI-ShadLogo_250px      AMK-Be-Safe-Logo-BLACK.RED2

Institutional support

The conference benefits from the support of:

KP_Thrive_307          the-christensen-fund-logo

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