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Honoring 2015 Landmark Volunteers

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Irvine Ranch Conservancy honors recipients of the 2015 Excellence in Volunteerism award.

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy helps manage nearly 30,000 acres of open space in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks – supported by a dedicated, active volunteer team of nearly 400 people. On Friday, April 24, the Conservancy and its partners honored the outstanding volunteers who made public enjoyment of this natural landscape possible over the last year. The awards ceremony included the recognition of 10 recipients of the 2015 Excellence in Volunteerism award.


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The Conservancy selected the recipients based on their exemplary efforts in support of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, work that stood out even among their talented and committed peers. They contributed thousands of combined hours to the land while leading public programs, participating in habitat restoration work, monitoring scientific research projects, and performing other jobs that support excellent land stewardship.

During the awards presentation, open space landowners and partners such as OC Parks, the City of Irvine and the City of Newport Beach also thanked the entire volunteer team for helping to provide public access and enjoyment of these spectacular lands. The Conservancy also honored its Outstanding Partners for 2015, honoring Into the Wild OC Trail Runs and former City of Irvine Director of Community Services Brian Fisk. They were honored for supporting excellent stewardship of local open space through their work with the Conservancy.

Conservancy volunteers contributed more than 25,000 combined hours of service to the land and their community in 2015 – the equivalent of 12 full-time employees. The 2015 recipients of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy Excellence in Volunteerism award are:

Bill Braly— Bill volunteers in every corner of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. He may be participating in habitat restoration in Limestone Canyon one day, then helping to guide a hike in Buck Gully the next. Bill serves as a Land Steward, Trail Boss and Trail Guide, and he brings a good-natured enthusiasm to each type of activity.

John Brown— Buck Gully owes John an enormous debt of gratitude for the poison oak he has removed and the native habitat he works to restore. John also works tirelessly combating invasive species in Big Canyon and Fremont Canyon. He can also be found on a mountain bike during a docent-led ride or Wilderness Access Day. =

Diane Etchison— Diane so willingly shares her expertise in bird and plant identification, and has raised the caliber of every program she leads or supports. Diane is a regular and reliable contributor at monthly butterfly counts as well as the seasonal bird monitoring program in Limestone Canyon.

Rick Gaskins— Rick is a wonderful ambassador for the Conservancy. He is a Land Steward, Trail Guide, and a very active Fire Watch volunteer. While planting cactus pads, Rick came up with the excellent idea of using food tongs as planting tools, which has saved a lot of people from cactus barbs.

Don Havens— Don can be found leading public mountain bike tours and helping with the mountain bike skills clinic, as well as assisting with yoga, trail work and stewardship activities across the Landmarks. He is one of our founding volunteers, and continues to be an invaluable contributor and leader within the volunteer corps.

Christian Lutkemeyer— A leader in many ways, Christian is not only a Docent for mountain bike activities, he is also a Land Steward, Trail Guide, Mountain Bike Skills Instructor, and a Fire Watch volunteer for the Conservancy. Since 2011, Christian has donated hundreds of hours of his time enhancing, instructing, and leading activities on the land.

Jay Matchett— Jay supports weekly fitness hikes on Hicks Haul Road, as well as hikes in Orchard Hills, Round Canyon and Fremont Canyon. His local plant knowledge and native bird expertise make him a valuable volunteer for many programs. His calm demeanor and eagerness to share his expertise with others helps people feel a connection to the Landmarks.

Gretchen Mavrovouniotis— Gretchen has contributed hundreds of hours to stewardship, citizen science, and interpretive programs. Her varied interests lead to a wide range of support for the land, helping with everything from native seed production, Tecate cypress and oak restoration, oak health monitoring, and a new bird monitoring program.

Michael Mavrovouniotis— Gretchen and Michael often work as a team on projects. Michael is an invaluable member of the citizen science team, and uses his engineering background to provide detailed analysis for scientific data. His knowledge, experience and leadership are a tremendous asset in supporting and protecting our open spaces.

Ron Pennington— Ron can always be relied on to jump in and help on almost any event. He has been especially supportive of the Dripping Springs restoration project. Since 2010, Ron has donated hundreds of hours on everything from interpretive hikes, volunteer trainings, Fire Watch, and community stewardship events.

These 10 volunteers were also honored during the 2015 One OC Spirit of Volunteerism Awards on April 14. For more information on volunteering with Irvine Ranch Conservancy, please visit http://letsgooutside.org/volunteer/.