Volunteer of the Year

Each year the SMMTC honors a trail volunteer with the Hank Grateful Award. The award's namesake was an instrumental trail builder who passed away in 2001.

Greg Sweel is one of the “unsung” heroes of the SMMTC trail crew. Though not chronologically correct, he might be considered one of the “grey beards”, having started volunteering with the trail crew in 2002. He worked with and trained under the famous Milt McAuley and became a crew leader in 2005. Even though he still works at a full time job and lives outside our area, year in and year out, Greg contributes hundreds of volunteer hours. He performed almost a thousand hours of service in just the last five years alone. He participates in most of the weekly trail maintenance projects, and can always be counted on to help out with special projects. This year, as in past years, Greg volunteered for two of the multi-day trail projects in Channel Islands National Park. He also occasionally performs trail maintenance with other trail organizations and contributes many volunteer hours performing restoration work with Channel Islands Restoration (CIR). Greg assisted Milt McAuley in establishing the annual NPS Backbone Trail hike series and he has been the prime organizer and leader of those hikes for the past few years. In addition to leading up to ten hikes a year, he also trains new volunteers for the program. image of greg


Previous Hank Grateful Award Winners

George Sherman - Board Member, Crew Leader, Webmaster and dedicated trail work volunteer. George's increasing involvement with the Trails Council has led him from Board Member to Web Master to wildflower aficionado. Along the way he started coming out to do trail work on Saturdays. Among the non-retired crew members, George has lead the way in terms of hours and enthusiasm generated. Known for his loquacious manner with trail users passing thru a work area, several crew leaders have referred to him as the Walmart greeter of the Trails Council. George says the best way to see the outdoors is to work on a trail. By working on the trail you see and learn how a trail is affected by the runoff of water, human traffic and fire. Spend a lot of time in the same section of the trail and you start to see the small stuff that you might miss. If you see him working on the trail, do not be surprised if he tries to convince you into volunteering once or twice a year to keep our trails in good shape.
image of george

Sharon Simmonds - Over the past twelve years (probably more) Sharon has averaged 200+ hours each year working on our trails. The word to describe the quality of her work - immaculate! We kid her about bringing up a broom and dustpan to make her work look "just right". Look at the photo below and you can see what we mean. The tread has been reworked with a 5 degree out slope and the rocks have been integrated in with the slough to produce a smooth and durable tread. The Trails Council is delighted to have Sharon working with us year after year! Sharon encourages all of us to work up to her level of quality. Sharon's on the trail personality helps keep the younger volunteers focused and in good cheer. She communicates very well with the crew and volunteers plus serves as a great example: At the end of the day, she is still working when many volunteers have thoughts of finding some shade and sitting down. Each year, together Sharon and her husband Norm, combine to work nearly 450 hours - an amazing contribution of time and effort.
image of shaorn

Annie Salerno - Annie has been a Board Member and organizer of our Backbone Trek event. Annie's time and efforts have been focused on supporting Trail Days and running the Backbone Trek. She makes sure the raffle prizes are gathered, the food ordered and prepared, the venues reserved - all of the things that makes it possible for our volunteers or hikers to simply hike or do trail work.
annie

Barbara Thomas - Crew Leader and Board Member. Trail Days Organizer. Barb is currently (Late 2015) the Vice-President of the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council. Barb distinguished herself over the years by performing regularly as a trail work volunteer and then mastering the set of skills required to be an effective crew leader. After the passing of Linda Palmer, Barb stepped up to plan our organizations signature event - Trail Days in Pt. Mugu State Park. A daunting task for anyone, Barb’s organizational skills were put to good use and our Trail Days event has continued to be successful and an important venus for all trail user groups to meet and work together for the betterment of all.
barb

Dave Edwards - Crew Leader and chief planner of our trail work events. Dave creates and schedules our work events with government agencies as well as the Sierra Club and CORBA. 350 hours a year of trail work is not uncommon for Dave!! When you volunteer to work with us, Dave is the guy who might bring an umbrella on a sunny day but always brings the chocolate to augment lunch and provides the cold drinks at the end of the day. Dave also volunteers on the Channel Islands along with other organizations. Dave puts the “Give” in “Give back” by generously donating so much of his time. Like Jerry Mitcham, Dave is often the first to arrive at a work site and the last to leave. He is also quite skilled with a hand grinder sharpening tools for the days work. When there is Poison Oak to remove, Dave is the go to guy - going in where most sensible people fear to tread!
dave

Linda Palmer - Linda was our President, Vice President, crew leader and advocate for the Santa Monica Mountains. Her passing left some big boots to fill. we have a web page devoted to how blessed we were as an organization to have her at the helm. She was the first Trail Crew Leader for the volunteer trail maintenance crews and she was the keeper of the tools for the Trails Council. Along the way she designed and helped build the Stunt High Trail.
Linda Palmer

Liz Baumann and Pete Warden - Dedicated volunteers and crew leaders who managed the web site for several years even after they moved away... Liz Baumann and Pete Warden set the bar quite high for non-retired volunteers with the sheer amount of work they put in. On the trail, they were very active regulars putting in a couple of hundred hours each. Behind the scenes, Pete and Liz built a web site, they worked with other trail user groups to roll out an integrated Google Calendar for Trail Work, a sign up page for Trail Days and hundreds of other items that are still in place today. Thank you! Liz created the especially popular Plant of the Month pages on our web site. Pete provided sage advice on treating fellow trail workers in a blog post I have somewhere that is timeless. Looking for the link to post...
pete and liz

Longtime trail crew volunteer and crew leader. Margaret was most associated with the Phantom Trail. It was her favorite trail and under her guidance a well maintained trail.
margaret

Jerry Mitcham - is a Board Member, a Crew Leader leader and has his hands in everything the Trails Council does. The amount of hours that Jerry contributes year to year go way beyond what most volunteers could ever imagine. Long before the volunteers show up, Jerry is busy gathering the tools and supplies required for the outing. He has coordinated with various outside groups that provide the Trails Council with volunteers and for the volunteers a worthwhile activity. He has worked with government agencies to discuss requirements, issues, strategies and future maintenance plans. His truck is usually first to the job site and likely to be the last to to head home - tools have to be sorted and returned to the storage unit. There are casual volunteers, regular volunteers, dedicated core group volunteers and then there is Jerry. Superlatives like exceptional, dedicated, thoughtful and talented at managing volunteers - are words that just scratch the surface to describe what Jerry does as a Crew Leader.
jerry

Norm Simmonds - Long time volunteer and Crew Leader. A master at building drains. Continues to average over 250 hours of volunteer work each year since. Norm is the volunteer crew leader who has been known to plan his hip replacement surgeries around our summer hiatus so that he does not miss volunteering. Norm is responsible for our mid week volunteer work efforts. On at least one Wednesday a month our dedicated trail crew fit in one more outing on a trail that needs extra work or that is somewhat out of the way. Together with his wife Sharon there is no more dedicated husband/wife team working on the trails.
norm

Jerry Mitcham - is a Board Member, a Crew Leader leader and has his hands in everything the Trails Council does. The amount of hours that Jerry contributes year to year go way beyond what most volunteers could ever imagine. Long before the volunteers show up, Jerry is busy gathering the tools and supplies required for the outing. He has coordinated with various outside groups that provide the Trails Council with volunteers and for the volunteers a worthwhile activity. He has worked with government agencies to discuss requirements, issues, strategies and future maintenance plans. His truck is usually first to the job site and likely to be the last to to head home - tools have to be sorted and returned to the storage unit. There are casual volunteers, regular volunteers, dedicated core group volunteers and then there is Jerry. Superlatives like exceptional, dedicated, thoughtful and talented at managing volunteers - are words that just scratch the surface to describe what Jerry does as a Crew Leader
jerry

Milt McAuley - Legendary Santa Monica mountains hiker, writer, advocate and trail worker. Milt revolutionized how people see the Santa Monica Mountains as a destination hiking area. Milt's guidebooks brought hikers who had not considered the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains worthy of their attention. Milt's books came out when many people began to consider hiking as a more than once a week activity- a short drive to the local mountains made it possible to go hiking more often. Having a reliable guidebook opened the mountains up and likely angered some property owners who were used to their solitude. Milt was an active crew leader and of course hike leader. Milt left behind a legacy that thousands of us benefit from. Milt also wrote a flower identification book that is considered one of the best books by a non-botanist. I believe he was self taught in this area.

Burt Elliott - If you spend enough time traveling along our local trails you are going to eventually encounter organized and dedicated groups of people authorized to work repairing damage caused by erosion or trimming some vegetation crowding the trails. Burt Elliott was among the most prolific volunteers in our local mountains. The sheer number of trails that Burt helped to build and repair can only be matched by the most dedicated of volunteers. Just about every trail in the Conejo Open Space and Santa Monica Mountains has seen Burt's footprints. Burt estimated that he put in more than 10,000 hours of volunteer work.It would be a big accomplishment to hike all of the trails that he worked on. Building and maintaining trails is the work that we do to benefit all trail users; and it connects us to the land in a way that simply traveling through does not. Burt knew and understood that, and we have benefitted from Burt's labor over the past twenty-five years and will continue to benefit.
burt

Norm Simmonds - Long time volunteer and Crew Leader. A master at building drains. Continues to average over 250 hours of volunteer work each year since. Norm is the volunteer crew leader who has been known to plan his hip replacement surgeries around our summer hiatus so that he does not miss volunteering. Norm is responsible for our mid week volunteer work efforts. On at least one Wednesday a month our dedicated trail crew fit in one more outing on a trail that needs extra work or that is somewhat out of the way. Together with his wife Sharon there is no more dedicated husband/wife team working on the trails.
norm simmonds

Virginia Grue - Long time volunteer Crew Leader and first recipient of this award. Still active more than 14 years after receiving this award. Virginia is the dedicated trail worker who has some sensitivity to Poison Oak - I believe if she looks at it hard enough she might just get a rash - yet she has been very active with our organization despite this sensitivity. She has been very active at Trail Days either behind the scenes (going to local businesses for raffle prizes) or leading a crew into some seriously overgrown brush. With a smile and a dry sense of humor, the work goes by quickly when Virginia is on board.
virginia