Awarding the volunteers at Mission Trails

Posted: February 17th, 2017 | Communities, Featured, Mission Trails | No Comments

By Jay Wilson

Volunteers at Mission Trails are very special people. On Feb. 4, we held the 21st Annual Volunteer Awards Program sponsored by the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation.

In 2016, park volunteers logged over 13,000 hours. Volunteers in nine categories were recognized and each received certificates of appreciation from Councilmember Scott Sherman, City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department and the MTRP Foundation as well as a $50 gift card from the MTRP Foundation.

The Volunteer of the Year for 2016 is Steve Haiman. He is a graduate from the Trail Guide Class of 2006. Since then, he has led 400 nature walks, with 49 walks in 2016 alone.Over the years, has also given numerous outreach presentations on bats and other topics to elementary schools, and this past October gave bat presentations at six elementary schools to over 500 kids.

Steve has always been willing to pitch in and help out on a moment’s notice with school programs when needed, and at the Visitor Center Front Desk when we are short-handed. His enthusiasm and love for the park is obvious and contagious. Some of you may have met Steve sharing the history of George Cowles.

Mission Trails Volunteer of the Year Steve Haiman (Courtesy of Mission
Trails Park Foundation)

2016 Volunteer Awards were also presented to:

Bob Graham — Habitat Restoration

Jerry Bierman — Trail Restoration

Vance Mills — Park Beautification

Roy DeRego — West Sycamore Volunteer Crew

Nancy Conyers — Trail Guide

Daryel Stager — Park Patrol

Mary Wagner — Gift Shop

Dianne Hill — Visitor Center

Visitor Center director David Lee ended the evening by congratulating the volunteers who had five, 10, 15 and 20 years of volunteer service.

There is more information about all the volunteer opportunities on the homepage.

A special thank you to the businesses who contributed to this event: Olive Garden Restaurants, Living Coast Discovery Center, Windmill Farms, The Trails Eatery, MTRP Foundation, Rita’s Del Cerro, Cheers Deli and The Golden Bagel.

Are you ready to give back?

That’s what I was thinking about when I planned what I would do after retirement from teaching young children for 31 years. I wanted something different, something that mattered.

Since my mother had enjoyed Mission Trails Regional Park for years (she hiked Cowles Mountain at age 82) and on her passing, my family made a donation to honor her with a plaque at the campground. That was the first time I had ever been to the Visitor Center and I have lived in San Diego for 58 years.

I decided that volunteering at Mission Trails was different than anything I had done before, so I became a Visitor Center Volunteer.

In my 15th year here at Mission Trails, what I enjoy most are the visitors who come into the center, many who are new to the facility. As volunteers, we meet people from all over the world, some who barely speak English but love the outdoors.

And, seeing local families with young children teaching them to respect nature as they set a good example for exercise by taking a hike. “I saw a lizard,” a child tells me with excitement. For him, it‘s a first. To see the wonder of a 2-year-old’s face when he first sees a three-dimensional actual-size mountain bobcat in a mural display is rewarding for the volunteers and staff.

Where else can you see a helicopter mountain rescue from your workplace? Or changing art exhibits all year long? We once experienced a group of cross-country bike riders riding from the Atlantic to the Pacific — they had 12 miles left to go.

So, if you want some diversity in your life with people who care, consider becoming a Visitor Center volunteer. It’s worthwhile. As a bonus, you will learn how to pronounce (maybe even spell) Kumeyaay, Shawii, Kwaay Paay, Ewaa and Cowles (pronounced “kohl’s”) Mountain.

—MTRP Visitor Center volunteer Linda Payne Smith

Get involved

All of us at Mission Trails are looking forward to another great year in 2017. For more information about becoming a volunteer, and/or to learn about all the activities in the park, check the website at

If you are looking for a venue for an after-hours event, contact Maggie Holloway at or call her at 619-668-3280.

—Jay Wilson is president of the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation. Reach him at

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