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OC Parks Excellence in Volunteerism

Meet 2020’s OC Parks nominees for Excellence in Volunteerism for Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Even though volunteering looks a lot different this year, volunteers remain an integral part of Laguna Canyon Foundation and OC Parks family. We honor these four volunteers as well as all our volunteers, for their hard work, dedication and love they show to our wilderness and our staff.

Larry Clemons

Any sports team considers themselves fortunate if they have a utility player – that multi-talented team member who can show up at a moment’s notice and play almost any position. Larry is that kind of volunteer. With a diverse set of interests and an endurance level on foot or on a bike that rivals trained athletes, Larry greets any request to volunteer with an open mind and a willingness to make the time.

When we needed assistance on the Geology Hikes, Larry was there and, come to find out, he knows his igneous rock from his metamorphic rock. When we needed additional guides on our monthly mountain biking rides, Larry not only showed up for the rides, he was willing to help on either the intro- or the intermediate ride, wherever he could be most useful to the group of participants that day.

Larry volunteers on special events such as Meditating in Nature, the Insect Zoo and Thanksgiving Wobble Walk. He is a committed leader on our Fitness Hikes.  Larry serves on the Wildlife Camera Team and does restoration work.

Most importantly, Larry is a strong advocate for OC Parks, Laguna Canyon Foundation and the wilderness itself.  He is a wonderful ambassador between the hiking and biking communities and an absolute pleasure to be with on the trails.

Thank you, Larry for your hundreds of hours of service and your passion for the open space.

Brian Flynn

Brian Flynn is a great videographer, producer and editor.  He has used his skills to create videos we can share with the park visitors, particularly through our email newsletter and Vimeo site.  Our email newsletter reaches more than 2500 people and every issue is opened by almost 1,000 people.

During this period of the pandemic, Brian has helped us, from a distance, produce animal guessing game activity videos for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  We had many compliments from our newsletter recipients and the videos shared the amazing parenting behavior of park wildlife.

Almost every month, Brian produces up to four short videos, complete with educational text and music.  There is nothing to compare with actually seeing the park animals in action – and our subscribers enjoy learning about the park animals.

When we needed to make a video for our park Oral History Project and the project videographer was not available, Brian stepped in and spent hours video taping the interview of a figure important to our park’s history.

The interview went in all different directions, so the video needed a massive amount of editing.  Brian didn’t blink an eye.  He did everything he could to make the video great…and it involved hours and hours of work. We have received compliments from those who watched the video. Brian is professional, kind, and easy to work with.

Beyond the video project, Brian is one of the regular volunteers with our wildlife camera crew.  He hikes out, retrieves the cards from the trail cams, and processes the photos to be used in our database.  Brian has been helpful working out technical issues with data collection.  He has developed an online cloud data sharing system, so the crew can see the photos from all the different cameras.

We thank Brian for generously sharing his time and expertise to help the public better appreciate Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and its wildlife.

Bob Sill

Bob Sill hikes trails in all Orange County parks.  When OC Parks Resource Specialist Laura Cohen first met Bob four years ago, he was hunting an invasive plant, goat’s head, also called “puncture vine.”  The fruits of this invasive plant are so sharp that they can pop bike tires.  He had a good idea where to find it in the park and he carried a bag with him, so he could make sure no seed was left behind.

Bob has hunted goat’s head all over Orange County, from the Santa Ana Mountains to Whiting and Limestone, and out to the coastal wilderness parks.

Bob Sill is very observant and notices changes in the landscape.  He reports his discoveries of rare plants and anything that seems out-of-place in the park.  This year, from up on the ridge, he discovered an unauthorized trail that had been cut through one of the most pristine areas in the park.  He reported it to the park rangers and they were able to take action to protect the area, which is so important to park wildlife.

Bob is an amateur astronomer and has volunteered to share his love of astronomy and space exploration with the visitors who attended our Astronomy and “Observe the Moon” nights.  People were often seen lingering at the table, talking to Bob about the Moon or planets and enjoying the conversation, books and photos Bob shared with them.

In the past year and a half, Bob has joined our Stewardship Team  He takes on the toughest weeds in the most difficult locations. He’s expanded his non-native search from puncture vine to Sahara mustard, artichoke thistle, castor bean, fennel, and more.  This is no small task, as these invaders can be found all over the park … and he’s spent more than 550 hours clearing invasive species. He graciously offers his help whenever he is needed.

We thank Bob Sill for taking care of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park to preserve its beauty and richness for our community now and in the future.

Sherri Sisson

Sherri Sisson is an integral part of the Laguna Canyon Foundation Stewardship Team at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.  No task is too much for Sherri.  After working 630 hours and three years in the most difficult areas, doing the toughest work, Sherri is still going strong!

While attending a California Native Plant Society Meeting, Sherri Sisson heard about the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Stewardship Team and their work with Sahara mustard.  She approached the team leader and said, “I’d like to work on that” and the rest is history.

Sherri’s fortitude must be appreciated, as the Sahara mustard project has grown over the past few years from five or six acres to a 26-acre project that starts in the late fall or winter and lasts several months.  The Sahara mustard is hand-pulled, and in many places, it grows under other plants, so searching can be a big job.  All plants must be located, as a single plant can produce up to 9,000 seeds, which remain viable for more than 3 years.

To “break even” you must eliminate at least 75% of the plants.  The goal of the Stewardship Team is to eliminate 100% before they go to seed.  So, not only does Sherri weed, but she must help search much of the park two or three times during the season.

Sherri Sisson has also been involved with the prickly artichoke thistle removal project.  One week, Sherri approached an artichoke thistle plant and heard rattling below…so she left the plant until the next week.  When she returned to the plant the following week, the same rattle greeted her!  And she’s still on the Stewardship Team!

Sherri has taken Invasive Plant Patrol Training and is working to remove new invasive plants in the park, before they are widespread.  She also helps identify invasive plants in other parks.

Thank you to Sherri Sisson for sharing her expertise and for her work protecting our native wildlands and wildlife for all of us!