In 1992, Don and his wife Susana walked the first Santa Barbara Coastwalk. They were enthusiastic participants who loved the Coast, and they loved the mission of Coastwalk. In 1993, Don agreed to organize the first ever Los Angeles County Coastwalk. It was a pleasure for the walkers to discover and enjoy the secret places and interesting locales planned by Don. The group meandered in the Santa Monica Mountains, and walked the Malibu shoreline, as well as the Bay Trail through Santa Monica and Venice.
In the late 1990s, Coastwalk teamed with the Santa Monica Trails Council and produced the dramatic 70-mile long Backbone Trail hike. Don was an instrumental coordinator of that hike. He only made one mistake and that was to buy undrinkable wine for the wine snobs, who rebelled and sent the chuckwagon driver to the store for a better selection. Don also organized day hikes to introduce new people to the coast and to Coastwalk. In 2003, Don lead the Coastal Trail Expedition through the length of LA County.
Don joined the Coastwalk Board of Directors in 1994, and served on the Board for sixteen years. During that time, he was a tireless advocate for Coastwalk and the mission of protecting the coast and providing access via the Coastal Trail. He was always promoting ways to improve Coastwalk, and was more than willing to engage in discussions to promote his ideas. Ever the team-builder, he always accepted the decisions made by the Board.
Don kept an eye on LA County coastal developments, and tracked several proposals, appearing before the Coastal Commission to testify. He also worked on the proposed Santa Monica Mountains Coastal Slope Trail, proposed by the Santa Monica Conservancy and the National Recreation Area. On several occasions, the Coastwalk Board met at Don and Suzanne’s lovely craftsman style home in Santa Monica for meetings.
In 2002, Coastwalk received a grant from the Coastal Conservancy to do a study on completing the Coastal Trail. Don and Susana sat on a working committee that met monthly for two years, and helped produced a full color report called Completing the California Coastal Trail. Don also worked tirelessly to develop an interactive website with maps of the CCT.
In 2011, Don was planning “The Best of LA” Coastwalk, still doing his part as he battled illness.
Don will always be remembered for his intelligence, his enthusiasm for Coastwalk, and for his willingness to stay with the program through all the up and downs. In early 2011, the Coastwalk Board voted to give Don the Maree Fink Award, only given to those who have tirelessly volunteered over many years in service to the Coastwalk mission.
One of the joys of Coastwalk participation is to strike up a good conversation with a fellow walker. Such was my pleasure when Don led a Malibu walk, and he brought his gift of conversation to the subject of his lifetime expertise of bacteriology, stimulating my practice exposure to dealing with bacterial infections. We went on for hours, and I will always remember how much both of us enjoyed the conversation on the Malibu beach.
One of my strongest memories of Don goes back to 1996, when we were planning the first Whole Hike down the entire state. Vivian and I had taken on the job of doing the planning, and at a Coastwalk board meeting in Sausalito, at which Don was present, we gave the board an update on the planning process. Since we were looking at an 1100 mile hike taking over three months to accomplish, Vivian and I felt that we couldn’t plan the hike down to the exact day – we’d just have to be flexible and see where the hikers were when they arrived in Southern California in the latter days of the hike. Don spoke up immediately, and in unequivocal terms told us that would be unacceptable – his volunteers in the south needed firm dates to plan for. He would not let us off the hook, and after a futile attempt to sway him with how hard that would make our job, we agreed to his terms. As a result, the hike was run like a railroad that summer, and we hit each campsite all along the 1100 mile route exactly on schedule. Doing that actually made the planning easier in the long-run, removed the huge complications that would have come up if we hadn’t done that, and I’m convinced got all the hikers to the finish line in Tiajuana, with them knowing there was a definite time and place that this endless hike would end.
I also was reminded that more times than not a board of directors are served by members who are outspoken and can courageously defend their positions. Don always struck me as that kind of person. His advice was always carefully listened to; Don was a smart man, and his obvious passion and delight in Coastwalk was always evident. I enjoyed spending time with him at meetings, and was happy when he and Susanna started spending more time in the Bay Area with family, knowing that Coastwalk would benefit from his proximity. I was very saddened to learn this morning about Don’s death, and my heart and thoughts go out to Susanna and his family now. You will be long remembered, Don, by your fellow Coastwalkers and friends.