Coastside ranger retires after 34 years

By on Wed, December 30, 2009

Gary Strachan is retiring after 34 years as a park ranger, 25 of those serving in State parks on the coast, reports Julia Scott in the County Times.

"Gary’s a force on the coast. He probably wants to have his ashes scattered out there," said Paul Keel, parks superintendent for San Mateo County. "He cares about what he’s doing. He makes it a part of who he is. When you meet somebody like that, you just kind of know it. People get it when they meet someone who means what they say and cares about what they do."

Strachan has spent a lot of time thinking about how to best protect and share the wonders of the park with the public and the scientific community. He expanded the park’s volunteer program, recruiting more than 235 volunteer docent naturalists to take 50,000 people on guided walks of Año Nuevo. He spent eight years working with nonprofits and private foundations to raise $3.8 million to convert an old farmhouse and dairy barn into a marine museum — even as his own park’s operating budget shrunk along with others across the state.

He is also a committed environmentalist when it comes to protecting rural coastal lands from development, becoming a major behind-the-scenes player in working with open space groups and nonprofits to broker land deals with the state. He played a crucial role in adding 20,000 acres of open space to the South Coast, including Cascade Ranch and part of Butano State Park. The land acquisitions dramatically expanded hiking trail connections from Año Nuevo to the surrounding area.

Strachan is confident that Año Nuevo will be left in good hands, even if the state cannot afford a full-time replacement at the moment. But he does worry — a lot — that at a time when budget cutbacks threaten the future of State Parks, public support is also at an ebb.

Read the rest at the County Times.