Rich with BSLT staff members and volunteers at Mitteldorf Preserve’s Red Tail Overlook last fall.
It’s a bittersweet moment in the midst of “Thankuary” here at Big Sur Land Trust, as we say a grateful farewell to our chief operating officer (COO) Rich Hamilton and congratulate him on his retirement after a decade of service. Our president and CEO Jeannette Tuitele-Lewis speaks for all of us when she says, “It has been a wonderful gift to have an executive partner like Rich. His quiet and thoughtful nature has been a steady force during a time of organizational transformation as we expanded our mission and geography to better serve communities across Monterey County. Rich’s dedication to administrative excellence and financial transparency paired with his passion for land conservation has helped solidify Big Sur Land Trust’s standing as a community institution built on a foundation of public trust. I am grateful to have had Rich by my side these past eight years and although he will be retiring, I am comforted knowing that given his deep love of land, he will continue to be involved with the Land Trust.”
We had an opportunity to sit down with Rich so he could share a few of his favorite memories. “I have a photo from the first weekend after I started at Big Sur Land Trust when I went out to Glen Deven Ranch with my son Evan (who was 13 at the time). I stood on the point looking out over the Big Sur coast thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I get to be here as part of my job!’ It was the start of an exceptional experience.”
Mitteldorf Preserve is one of Rich’s favorite places and now he’s looking forward to spending even more time there. He remembers what it was like to be on the site after the Soberanes Fire in 2016. “Evan and I spent nine consecutive Sundays at Mitteldorf that winter working to clear the road with our portable chain saws. From Echo Ridge you could still see patches of smoke as the forest continued to flare up and smolder. That December, I was out at Echo Ridge with Tom Reeves and we saw the first green shoots of a fern. We started jumping around in celebration. It’s been remarkable to watch the land heal over time.”
Rich has been on the front lines of many other parts of our work as well. He remembers getting a phone call from a realtor expressing the Ikeda family’s interest in selling their 73-acre property at the heart of Salinas to us for our Carr Lake Park project. That led to our first urban acquisition in 2017 and began a new era in land conservation for the Land Trust!
Another favorite memory is sharing his passion for stargazing with our summer campers at Glen Deven Ranch. “Seeing stars and planets through a telescope is a first for most of the kids and it’s an amazing experience for everyone – especially for me. I’ll always remember hearing some of the the kids’ amazement as we got to see a rare view of Saturn!”
Rich ended our conversation by saying, “I always enjoyed coming to work. I love solving puzzles and there was always something compelling to focus on. To be surrounded by wonderful people, experience amazing nature preserves, and help deliver on this incredible mission is a great way to end a career. I look forward to coming back as a volunteer!”
If you’d like to have an opportunity to wish Rich good luck, please join us for our You Make It Possible virtual event on Friday, January 27 from 8:30am – 9:30am. You’ll also be able to say hello to our new COO Peter Eigen.