Jasonn Beckstrand, Board President
Jasonn (at) LPForest.org
Valerie Hoffman, Vice Chair
Valerie Hoffman is an attorney who clears her mind and spirit by being outdoors in nature. Transplanted to Santa Barbara from Chicago and prior to that from the far north country woods in New York State, she was lured into the backcountry by her partner Ron Noe who suggested they take a little walk one weekend. She has never looked back, except to make sure she knows where they left the car. Valerie also is interested in California native plants and their importance to our ecology, and has deepened her knowledge of them while doing volunteer trail maintenance with the LPFA. Valerie has served on a number of not-for-profit boards in a variety of roles and brings this expertise, along with her legal skills to the LPFA.
Gordie Hemphill, Ojai Chapter President
Gordie began his involvement with Wheeler Gorge in 2004 when Los Padres Forest Association (LPFA) was known as Los Padres Information Association (LPIA). In 2010, Gordie became the President and Director at Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center and began working on advancing the summer program schedules. Today, he works with many different groups to set up interpretive events, provide public education about the Los Padres, make improvements to the building, and continue summer education programs. Gordie looks forward to a bright future for Wheeler Gorge and hopes to see you all at the center!
Terry & Cindy Wright, Board Member – Ojai Chapter
Terry: I have grown up in the shadow of the Los Padres National Forest here in Ojai. I am retired from Civil Service working for the US Navy in Port Hueneme as an Industrial Engineer, did many facility design and development projects over my 36 years of service. I continue to work as a contractor, working for the Navy part time, as well as doing lots of volunteer work around Ojai, CA. Was on The City of Ojai’s Redevelopment Commission, the planning Commission, and now on the Ventura County Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) for the Ojai Valley. I like to travel, ride my bike, hike, and attend to our ½ acre “estate” with 10 orange trees!
Cindy: She is more artistic, has done a lot of painting, drawing, and mastering of the musical instrument, the didgeridoo! Which she loves to play for visitors at Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center.
We both have been volunteering at the Wheeler Gorge Center since 2008. While there we have been docents, but have supported all of the upgrading of the building, conference room, kitchen, and restroom facilities, and Thomas Fire remodel. We support the Summer Program Series every year on Sat from May thru Sept.
Josh Stichter, Board Member
Josh Stichter oversees risk and safety for LPFA, using his background as an insurance advisor for HUB International. He often can be heard apologizing to Bryan for ruining the fun, but says “hey someone has to do it.” Make no mistake, Josh knows a good time and there are few places greater than the Los Padres to have it. He enjoys surfing, wrenching on cars, and spending time with his family when he can’t be in the Forest. Preserving access to the forest is what drew Josh to get involved. He looks forward to days ahead when his kids are able to explore the nature LPFA has worked hard to protect.
Curt Cragg, Board Member
After a re-connection to the outdoors and a discovery of local trails, Curt Cragg quickly realized that many recreation spots needed some love. He started by picking up trash on solo hikes and then invited a few friends to join him to clear some brush on some of his favorites hikes. Not long after initiating personal trail projects he discovered that there were organized groups that were on these tasks. He soon began volunteering with the Los Padres Forest Association and the rest is history. Nearly 15 years later he is still volunteering by leading trail crews, serving on the board of directors, teaching backpacking classes, and assisting with construction tasks. Cragg is an avid backpacker and hiker and has been blessed to have the San Rafael Wilderness as a personal playground and backyard from where he lives in Santa Ynez.
Bryan Conant, Executive Director
Bryan (at) LPForest.org
Bryan Conant has been the Executive Director of the LPFA since 2013. Bryan grew up outside of Los Angeles and learned an appreciation for the outdoors thanks largely to annual Sierra backpacking trips with his family. After attending UCSB and graduating with a degree in Geography, Bryan settled in Goleta and worked for 15 years as a Cartographer and the Director of Mapping Services at Maps.com. It was also during this time that Bryan began spending many weeks each year exploring and learning about the Los Padres National Forest and in particular the trails across the Sespe, San Rafael and Dick Smith Wilderness areas. In 2003 Bryan merged his love of the Santa Barbara Backcountry with his cartographic expertise and self-published the San Rafael Wilderness Map Guide. This was followed in 2008 with the publication of the Dick Smith & Matilija Wilderness Map Guide. Both map titles continue to sell at local retail stores and are updated regularly. Around the same time Bryan became involved with the Condor Trail and founded a 501c3 non-profit focused on building the Condor Trail named the Condor Trail Association. Bryan has a strong background in trail design and maintenance with multiple trail building certifications and through his role as LPFA Executive Director works closely with the Los Padres National Forest and other partner organizations to oversee the maintenance and restoration of trails across the Los Padres Forest. In addition to backpacking, hiking and mountain biking the Los Padres, Bryan also enjoys surfing, playing sports, house projects and spending time with his family.
Ari Songer, Program Manager
Ari (at) LPForest.org
Ari has been with LPFA in a number of capacities for the past 3 years. She has a background in youth education and conservation and has run a number of programs focused on getting youth outside. Her work experience has taken her to trails across the West, working with both conservation corps and the National Parks Service. Ari’s day to day work with LPFA involves trail work, managing volunteer projects and community engagement. Ari appreciates the dynamic nature of the Los Padres backcountry and never turns down an opportunity to spend day and night on the forest.
Tim Bills, Coordinator, Big Sur Station
Since 2015, Tim has managed the visitor center information desk and Nature Station Store at the Big Sur Station. During that time, Tim has developed strong working relationships with personnel from State Parks, USFS, Caltrans, Ventana Wilderness Alliance and the greater Big Sur community. Tim joined LPFA after a 25-year career working in higher education & student affairs, primarily at California State universities. He was born in Pennsylvania and enjoys the outdoors, especially hiking, composting and gardening.
Mike Smith, Trail Crew Leader
I have lived in Lompoc since I was 2 years old. I first hiked in the Los Padres National Forest as a 12 year old boy scout. It was easy to fall in love with the Los Padres, since I had already been hiking and enjoying the chaparral community of the La Purisma Mission state park since I was 5 years old.
It was about 20 years ago I first volunteered on a Kerry Kellogg led trail crew. I was hooked immediately! I was leading volunteer projects within a year. I even obtained 5 goats trained for packing and used them to support volunteer trips. In that 20 years I have led or participated in over 200 projects, whether they are 1 day projects or multi day working vacations.
This 20 year period of volunteering also involved many work trips with my wife Jenn and our 4 children. The children are now all well into adult years and still occasionally volunteer as time permits.
With the decline in the USFS budgets and staffing, the need for volunteer work has continued to increase in the Los Padres. It’s the love of the backcountry and my sense of stewardship that keeps me involved in the LPFA. My preferred projects are working deep within the Wilderness areas using only the hand tools allowed. I simply love wilderness trail maintenance best of all.
As the LPFA’s role increases in the non- wilderness areas, I am enjoying the work and challenges that brings. The Los Padres National Forest is a special place with many unique areas. As long as I can walk I will be involved one way or another with meeting the needs of the forest.
Daniel Smith, Trail Crew
Daniel Smith is native to Southern California’s Los Padres National Forest. When given the opportunity to give back to the mountains, he takes every chance he can get. Daniel works on the LPFA trail crew full time to help keep the forest accessible.