~~ MEET THE SMMTC BOARD OF DIRECTORS ~~
Members of the Board of Directors are a group of varied individuals. Their common interest for Trails is the unifying tie, and their diverse interests cover almost all outdoor activities. Volunteering their time and efforts, they are a blend of people who care deeply about giving the present community and future generations the enjoyment of trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Ruth Gerson, President -
Ruth Gerson has been a board member since 1979, serving as Secretary and Treasurer in the early years and as President in the last
years. An Agoura resident since 1975, Ruth has been riding her horses in the Santa Monica Mountains for 40 years, enjoying the trails for pleasure and endurance riding, while savoring the beauty, the wildlife and the serenity. Besides riding horses, she enjoys cooking, fishing, camping and horse packing both here and in the Sierras. She is involved in various equestrian organizations promoting public access to public lands for horseback riding, keeping the federal backcountry lands open for historic saddle and pack stock, helping to build the equestrian campground in Malibu Creek State Park, and ensuring that horses continue to be part of agriculture. As President, her focus has been to address the trails themselves and the many additional issues that affect trails – access, easements, connections, maintenance and safety. She feels that it is vital to develop trail camps along the Backbone Trail. She strives for the Trails Council to maintain a presence within the community to educate people about the irreplaceable resource in trails and to collaborate with the land agencies in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA).
Jeanne Wallace, Vice President -
Jeanne moved to rural Calabasas with her family and horses in 1974 and became a lifetime member and the first Treasurer of the SMMTC in 1976. She has been an Equestrian Trails Incorporated (ETI) activist since 1974. She rejoined the SMMTC board of directors in 2002, and was elected Vice President in 2010. She organized and manages the Cold Creek-Monte Nido Community Trails Maintenance Program. Jeanne evaluates new proposals and resolves trail problems for the SMMTC . She enjoys riding her horse, Dill, on the trails.
Steve Clark began mountain biking when he lived in San Diego in 1992. The following year he moved to the Conejo Valley when he took a position at Amgen in the new department of bioinformatics. Since then he has been riding and hiking the trails of the Santa Monica Mountains and nearby areas, with the occasional trip to other wild lands, especially in the Southwest. More recently he has taken up geocaching. Steve's passion is making the open spaces more accessible to everyone. He regularly helps with trail maintenance, and publishes maps, descriptions, photos and news of the parks and trails on his website. He became a board member in 2011.
Howard Cohen worked with the SMMTC for a number of years doing trail work and in 2007 became a board member. He has been a resident of the Conejo Valley since 1989 and currently lives in Newbury Park close to Point Mugu State Park where he enjoys the trails. Howard has participated in outdoor sports since 1972 when he moved here from New Jersey. Howard enjoys hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and running in the Santa Monica Mountains as well as pursuing these sports around the globe. Howard is supporting SMMTC by applying his information management skills to maintain the SMMTC membership data base. He also gets his hands dirty assisting in the maintenance of trails.
Georgia Farinella became a member of the board in 2006 and has served as the Secretary since then. She lives in the Santa Monica Mountains and enjoys an equestrian lifestyle. Georgia is an active community volunteer and strong trails advocate.
Michelle Kemmer has been Treasurer of the SMMTC since February of 2008, and a resident of the Conejo Valley since 2006. Michelle joined the SMMTC because of her great love for the Santa Monica Mountains. She enjoys getting out several times a week for a hike or a trail ride with her horse, Storm. She is continually amazed by the beauty and solitude that can be found so close to Los Angeles! When not enjoying our local mountains, Michelle can be found rock climbing in many of her other favorite places which include Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Idyllwild. She also enjoys backpacking, canyoneering, or just hanging out around the campfire.
Linda Mackinnon joined the SMMTC board in 2009. A lifelong equestrian and hiker, she loves access to the many beautiful multi-use trails in the Santa Monica Mountains that others have worked hard to create. She hopes to contribute to the preservation of the trail system and public access to them. A Malibu resident since 1981, she has ridden or hiked thousands of trail miles in the Santa Monica Mountains, Ojai and Santa Barbara areas. She has trekked extensively in Nepal and climbed Mt Kilimanjaro but her greatest joy is trail riding with Pete, her Arabian gelding.
Cynthia Maxwell has been a resident of the Santa Monica Mountains since 1970. She originally lived on a ranch homestead that had been in her husband’s family since 1913. There she fought hard to maintain the natural beauty of the mountains and was able to get 165 acres designated as a bird sanctuary, protecting the golden eagles that lived there. She still lives in the mountains and loves to hike the many trails near her home. She has been on the board of the Trails Council since 1999, and has been our insurance specialist for nearly as long. As a falconer, she enjoys sharing the beauty of her red tail hawk with others, and can be found during Santa Monica Mountains Trail Days in late April teaching the young people there about birds of prey.
Jerry Mitcham has been a member of the SMMTC board of directors since 2005. He has resided in Thousand Oaks since 1998. Jerry retired from the U.S. Navy after twenty years of service in 1979. He was then employed as a systems engineer for Litton Data Systems and Northrop Grumman Corporation for twenty-four years, retiring in 2004. He enjoys hiking, backpacking, camping and an occasional bike ride. He especially enjoys geocaching. Jerry is very active in the SMMTC trail maintenance program, participating in most of the weekly volunteer projects. He is a two-time recipient of the SMMTC Hank Grateful award for noteworthy volunteer service. He organizes and participates in the multi-day trail maintenance projects SMMTC conducts on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park each year. He is the coordinator and an organizer for the annual SMMTC-sponsored week-long Backbone Trail Trek in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Annie Salerno, a Southern California native, became involved with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council in 2000 when the Trails Council partnered with Coastwalk to offer the Backbone Trek. Already an avid hiker and advocate of development and preservation of trails, Annie quickly developed a passion for the Backbone Trail and the Santa Monica Mountains. She became a board member when Milt McAuley retired in 2004. She remained active in the Trails Council, Coastwalk and the Sierra Club until relocating to the U.K where she indulged her passion for travel. Having returned to the U.S. and taking residency in Thousand Oaks, Annie has once again become involved in the Santa Monica Mountains and is pleased to have been re-elected to the Trails Council Board.
Lylene Sheets has been a member of the Trails Council since the early 1980's. She moved to the area in 1970, living first in Calabasas and now in Agoura. She and her family enjoyed riding and caring for horses for many years. This interest prompted Lylene to find ways to ensure that trails were open and usable. She has worked on a variety of projects with the Trails Council, including membership, outreach, newsletter preparation and mailings. While no longer riding horses, Lylene still hikes the trails frequently.
George Sherman has been a member of the SMMTC board of directors since 2005, and has resided in Newbury Park since 1993. A California native, he has enjoyed hiking, biking and running in the Santa Monica Mountains since 1974. Depending on the weather he enjoys a bike ride in the Santa Monica Mountains anywhere from two to five days a week. George's focus within the SMMTC is on bicycling and other access issues. He also provides technical advice on various projects.
Ed Stauss, a resident of the west San Fernando Valley since 1961, has always enjoyed the wilderness, especially wildlife, geology and mountains. As a hiker, rather than rapidly clicking off mileage, he often stops to enjoy the views, watch a bird or talk to lizards along the trail. Since joining the Trails Council in late 2002, he has accepted the task of preparing the twice-yearly newsletter.
Barb Thomas has been a member of the SMMTC and has served on the board since 2005. She attributes her love of the outdoors to being born in Germany where her first outdoor sights were of the Alps. Barb has been active in trail riding since childhood, sneaking off into the jungle of Panama alone on her pony, exploring trails in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, California and Nevada. She participated in endurance rides, with distances up to 100 miles in 24 hours, served on the board of directors for the Old Dominion Rides and managed the Malibu Endurance Ride for several years. In addition to her love of horses, Barb is an avid hiker and has backpacked sections of the Appalachian Trail, Northville-Lake Placid trail, and many others on the east coast, as well as hiking and riding on many of our Southern California trails. Living out west in the Conejo Valley for the last
years, she values the enormous multi-use trail system we have in our back yard, absolutely one of the best in the country. Barb shares her life with her dog Katie, cats Charlotte and Johnnie, and spirited Arabian mare, Sarah.
Below are a few other individuals who serve valuable functions within the SMMTC
Liz Baumann, Webmaster
Liz is responsible for keeping our website updated, informative and engaging. She was a member of the SMMTC board and an active member on the SMMTC Trail Crew from 2005 to 2009, during which time she and Pete Warden together shared the role of SMMTC Webmaster. Liz moved to Boulder, Colorado in the spring of 2009, but she wanted to still be involved with the SMMTC and the trails in California by staying on as Webmaster. She enjoys hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking in the mountains of Southern California, Colorado and beyond.
Burt Elliott, Trail Crew Master
Burt is responsible for planning the SMMTC Trail Crew Schedules and in general is the coordinator for the SMMTC's Trail Maintenance outings in the Santa Monica Mountains. Burt retired as an Engineering Division Head on the Navy test range at Point Mugu. An avid hiker as well as trail worker, he participated in all seven Backbone Trail Treks so far, and also was co-coordinator for the Ventura County Coastwalk for eleven years. He has been hike leader/sweep for the NPS Backbone Trail series. Burt also volunteers with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Conejo Open Space surrounding Thousand Oaks on a variety of trail issues. His other hobbies include trail running, mountain biking, camping and geocaching.