New natural resource manager named to help restore county parks

The San Mateo County Parks Department has hired the first natural resource manager in the agency’s 90-year history.

Ramona Arechiga, who has coordinated volunteer-focused restoration projects for native trees and shrubs, will work with county staff, parks volunteers, and other agencies to maintain and improve parks in the county.

Arechiga comes to San Mateo County after working in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. She has also spent time working for nonprofits in Portland, Ore., where she planted more than 16,000 plants annually with the help of the community.

“There’s been so much support for this position,” Parks Department Director Marlene Finley said.

The passage of Measure A, a 10-year, half-cent sales tax approved by county voters in 2012 that protects county services from budget cuts, including keeping parks open, provided funding for the position, though the idea for the job had been discussed for years, Finley said.

“During discussions for Measure A funding, this came up as a need for the county and county parks to have a natural resource director,” Finley said.

Arechiga will be responsible for working with park volunteer groups that help restore parks, including removing invasive vegetation and planting native species, according to Finley.

The new manager will also aid staff in designing projects that are sensitive to natural resources, and work with contractors to ensure specifications in contracts are being followed.

One of Arechiga’s first key projects will be carrying on the already 30 years of work done to assess San Bruno Mountain, the region’s first identified habitat conservation area, Finley said.

“There’s been a lot of work done to maintain and improve habitats,” Finley said regarding San Bruno Mountain. “It’s important for us to have this natural resource, and we expect staff to oversee this assessment and work with the technical committee.”

San Bruno Mountain is home to 14 species of rare or endangered plants, as well as four types of butterflies classified as endangered species, according to Finley.

The Parks Department operates 19 parks, three regional trails and numerous other county and local trails encompassing 16,183 acres.

Arechiga begins her new position today. Her salary will be approximately $85,000 per year plus benefits.

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