Many extraordinary visionary women in the community have made significant contributions to the Park District. They leveraged their positions of power and influence in the East Bay to advance Park District's Mission and Vision, Their successes include the addition of invaluable parklands, increased habitat protection, and improvements to expand public access. They have also inspired a new generation of youth to take pride in public service and to care for the earth.
Learn more about the outstanding environmentalists, elected officials, and social justice leaders listed below in alphabetical order by last name.
Vice President Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris played a pivotal advocacy role for the Park District in 2013 as then-Attorney General of California. Her vital efforts helped turn 3.89 acres of surplus federal property along McKay Avenue and adjacent to Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda into public parklands. The federal government was pursuing a sale to a private developer and refused to consider a public benefit conveyance to the Park District. Attorney General Harris’s advocacy was instrumental in helping the Park District and ultimately the citizens of Alameda ensure that this property became part of the state park. Read the November 7, 2013 letter from Attorney General Harris that kicked off the multi-agency effort to rightfully retain the property for public use, and the Nov. 8, 2013 East Bay Times article Alameda: State Attorney General Harris weighs in on property near Crown Beach.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Congresswoman Lee is a staunch advocate for children’s rights, human rights, and environmental rights. In 1992 when San Leandro Bay Regional Shoreline was renamed to Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, Barbara Lee, co-chairing with EBRPD Board Director Doug Siden, convened at the park’s memorial grove to create a center that connects youth and families to Dr. King’s dream to fight for justice and to end racism and militarism. The original location of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center was at the park’s Shoreline Center – it has since moved. EBRPD continues to partner and support the Freedom Center and the annual Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Lecture Series.
Sylvia McLaughlin, Save the Bay Co-founder
One of the founders of Save The Bay, Sylvia McLaughlin was a true-spirited environmentalist and actively engaged community leader for many years. Through Sylvia’s work, the East Bay community now can enjoy a cleaner and healthier bay restored in many areas as thriving marshlands, sandy beaches, and parklands. In 2013, the Park District renamed Eastshore State Park in her honor. » McLaughlin Eastshore State Park Photo: David Sanger
The Meyers Sisters
In the early 1900s, Jeanette, Edith and Mildred Meyers would have been three young sisters found playing in the lush garden and estate that is now a part of Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks in Hayward and Union City. During the early 1960s, the sisters fought the proposed Foothill Freeway with plans to bulldoze the Meyers home. The sisters were successful, and the bequest of the 1,200-acre property became part of the Park District by 1979. Edith was a prominent physician, while Mildred went on to follow in her father’s footsteps as an architect. Jeanette (in photo) devoted her time in taking care of the family estates and became active in many civic organizations.
Ruth Orta (b. 1934), tribal chair and elder of the Him re-n of Ohlone, Bay Miwok and Plains Miwok, is passionate about her Jalquin/Saclan Bay Miwok/Ohlone heritage. She travels widely to speak about her people’s history and culture, as well as to participate in tribal events. Since 1996, Ruth has served the Park District as an “Ohlone Intern” and now cultural consultant, specializing in cooking acorn soup with heated stones in a basket, most notably at the annual Gathering of Ohlone Peoples at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont. In keeping with the adage, “You’re never too old…,” Ruth has recently joined with other members of her extended, five-generation family to reignite Chochenyo, the ancestral Ohlone language of the region now known as the East Bay. It is worth noting that Native Americans did not get the right to vote until 1924, four years after the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 giving women the right to vote.
In 2018, the Martinez Regional Shoreline was renamed in honor of Ted and Kathy Radke. Kathy Radke, alongside her husband, were active leaders on environmental issues, founding Contra Costa Ecology Action, Environmental Information, Citizens for Better Water Quality, and Friends of Alhambra Creek. Kathy was elected to the Martinez City Council in 1982 and served two four-year terms. She also served on the John Muir Health System Board, and later became a geriatric social worker. Ted Radke was the longest serving EBRPD Board Director from 1978-2014. » Radke Martinez Regional Shoreline
At the south side of Crown Memorial State Beach, lies a small but important marshland named after conservationist Elsie Roemer, who in the 1970s advocated for the thousands of bird species that call the Elsie B. Roemer Bird Sanctuary home. Elsie conducted surveys of birds in Alameda and Oakland for decades, and spent a lifetime dedicating herself to saving wildlife and wetlands in Alameda. Through her record-keeping, organizing skills and diplomacy, she inspired her community in the preservation of local marshland in the wake of growing commercial and residential development of these areas.
An award-winning journalist who worked as a prime-time anchor in local TV news for almost 40 years, Wendy Takuda is well-known at EBRPD for her volunteering in environmental restoration-removing invasive plants, planting natives and reducing fire risks in Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park. Wendy has also been an inspiring spokesperson for the Park District’s Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative by encouraging volunteerism in hands-on care of the parks, and visiting parks to experience physical, mental and social benefits.