We are grateful – especially in the difficult times we are in – to honor three of our volunteers through the OneOC Spirit of Volunteerism Awards. Thank you Fernando GenKuong, Miwa Kawai and Christine McConnell. Please click on each name to go to OneOC where you may send your congratulations and thanks.
If you hike or ride in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park on a weekday or weekend, you will likely see Fernando GenKuong riding on the trails and greeting park guests. He is a back-country patrol regular who the rangers count on to update them with trail conditions – particularly single-track trails. Always the consummate ambassador, Fernando engages the public with a cheery smile and broad knowledge of the park, trails, flora and fauna.
When Laguna Canyon Foundation’s regular monthly mountain bike rides lost their long-time leaders, Fernando stepped in. An accomplished mountain biker, Fernando can easily lead either the Intro to Mountain Biking with safety tips and fundamentals or lead the Intermediate Mountain Bike Ride, setting a great example of biking protocol and etiquette. Fernando demonstrates patience as he answers participants’ questions about equipment, trail conditions and negotiating rock gardens.
As a regular back-country patroller, averaging close to 200 days per year and riding more than 13 miles each ride, Fernando is well-known and loved among many of the park guests – both hikers and riders – and OC Parks Rangers rely on Fernando for the updates and texts he provides them.
Fernando’s kindness and knowledge simply adds to the beautiful outdoor experience Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park provides.
Reliable, committed, motivated and problem solver; these are just a few of the adjectives OC Parks and Laguna Canyon Foundation staff use to describe Miwa Kawai. In addition to attending regularly scheduled public events, when support for special coverage or a new initiative is needed, we can always count on Miwa. Miwa has stepped up on rain closures, user surveys on select trails and new restoration sites. When pots and trash cans have gotten stuck in equipment and debris, Miwa is the one to figure out how to pry them loose.
Miwa serves as a trail stewardship lead. One morning, when she went to one staging area while the trail team went to another to meet the volunteers, she ran four miles to catch up to us and then began the heavy lifting of drain clearing and brush removal for the next three hours. Miwa seeks out the quiet public volunteers and will personally work with them to ensure that they have a good experience.
She keeps up on her education by attending Invasive Plant Patrol talks and while serving as a backcountry patroller, will alert rangers not only to trail issues – a fallen tree, human encampments, dogs on unauthorized trails – she will let the restoration team know the whereabouts of emerging invasive plants.
Working full time as an accounting officer for a New York-based company, Miwa still finds time to volunteer most every week. A utility player with endless energy and kindness, Miwa truly embraces the spirit of volunteering and protecting the land that we love.
It was just days after Christine McConnell’s initial long-term volunteer orientation that the Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness fire broke out. Not one to shy away from assisting when needed, Christine volunteered dozens of hours to staff Burn Area Posts and engage with the public on why many trails were closed. A speech therapist by day, Christine has an easy and knowledgeable way with the general public and her support not only kept park users off the burned trails, but also provided the hikers and bikers reasons why the wilderness needed time to heal.
Volunteering on average 13 hours per month, Christine is a regular on the trails. Whether assisting in public events, cutting down artichoke thistle and tree tobacco, or doing regular trash pick-ups, Christine is a vital part of OC Parks and Laguna Canyon Foundation’s outreach to the general public. She has helped with special events such as Coastal Clean Up, Thanksgiving Wobble Walk and Amazing Snakes and takes time with park visitors to share her love of the wilderness.
We are grateful to have Christine’s wonderful spirit of conservation and commitment to the native flora and fauna.
We miss all of our volunteers and cannot wait to get out on the trails again with you soon. Be well; be safe.