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Staff

Abbi Alfonso

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Nursery Program Manager

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As a native San Franciscan, Abbi’s excitement for nature was fostered early on by exploring the limited green spaces throughout the city. From spunky California ground squirrels at Candlestick to Glen Canyon’s elusive Great Horned Owls to the diversity of plant communities of San Bruno Mountain; these experiences allowed her to develop a deep connection and appreciation for the intersection of humans and wildlife that she now strives to share with others.

 

Since then, she’s gone on to volunteer in habitat restoration and community advocacy with organizations around the Bay Area and the Central Valley such as the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Literacy for Environmental Justice, and California Waterfowl Association before earning a Bachelors of Science from the University of California, Davis in Wildlife Conservation Biology. Abbi began her professional career as an academic researcher for a UCD laboratory studying the population ecology of California threatened and federally endangered fish species of the San Francisco Bay Estuary. As a woman of color working in the outdoors, while exciting, left Abbi feeling isolated and marginalized due to the lack of representation of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BiPOC) communities. Returning to her Southeast San Franciscan roots in 2019, Abbi joined Literacy for Environmental Justice as an outdoor educator, native plant propagator specialist, and community programs coordinator promoting equitable access to open space and engaging communities of color in culturally relevant ways to nurture their connection with nature.

 

Abbi holds her identity as a woman of color, environmental justice, and community advocacy at the center of her work. She is excited to join Sutro Stewards as the Native Plant Nursery Manager and continue her work restoring native plant habitat and creating equitable access to Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve for people of all backgrounds.

Anat Leonard-Wookey

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Programs and Outreach Coordinator

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Anat found Sutro Stewards when she moved to San Francisco and her bay window overlooked the mountain.  She began as a volunteer in 2015 and became a Crew Leader in October 2022.  With over 20 years of experience across the homeless services system of care, Anat is excited to broaden our program offerings and maximize our impact.  She is a system simplifier, inquisitive explorer, root cause investigator, data meaning-maker, continuous builder and improver, champion of justice, and dedicated to implementing structural transformations to empower marginalized communities.  

 

Anat enjoys supporting non-profits through Board Service, currently with the Harm Reduction Therapy Center and previously at Dolores Street Community Services.  She is the mom to a toddler who keeps her on her toes and helps her be silly.

Ben Pease

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Senior Trails Program Advisor

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Ben Pease is a founding member of Sutro Stewards, specializing in trail projects. He grew up in Massachusetts with a swamp in his backyard, but his family moved to San Francisco when he was 12, so he began exploring odd corners of the City on his way to and from school. He earned a BA in Architecture from UC Berkeley in 1986, and worked several years as an architect, but found his passion in mapmaking and trail advocacy. 

Ben has worked as a cartographer since 1994. He creates maps for guidebook publishers, authors, and park agencies. His local work includes maps for UCSF's Mount Sutro trail system, the Bay Area Ridge Trail guidebook, and San Mateo County Parks. He and his partner, Shizue Seigel, collaborated on Rebecca Solnit’s book Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas. He publishes several detailed maps, including The Walker’s Map of San Francisco. (www.peasepress.com). 

An avid hiker and backpacker, Ben learned trail building with The Trail Center (1989-1994) and worked with fellow volunteers and city agencies to plan the route of the Bay Area Ridge Trail through San Francisco. He planned and co-led Coastwalk’s San Francisco group hikes for two decades. As a member of Sutro Stewards, he has mapped the existing trails and helped survey and build many improvements, with a focus on the proper gradient, cross-slope, and materials, plus teaching trail skills to volunteers.

Christian Chingcuangco

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Restoration Technician

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Christian was born in the Philippines, where he, unfortunately, didn’t have access to the natural world as the province he lived in was in the process of industrializing. Christian’s only interaction with nature came in the form of when it wanted to express itself. Such as the typhoons that were a regular occurrence in Christian’s life. Their presence had skewed his view of nature for a long time.

 

It wasn’t until his time with Sutro Stewards as a volunteer and Habitat Conservation & Restoration Intern that he started to really appreciate what nature can offer him. The open space of Mt. Sutro has influenced Christian to hike other green spaces within the City with his friends, and take in all the benefits local nature offers. More importantly, learning about the various native plants within Mt. Sutro and the ecosystem services associated with them illuminated their importance to everyone's wellbeing, inspiring Christian to protect them to the best of his abilities. 

Craig Dawson

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Founding Member Emeritus

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Craig Dawson is a San Francisco native who was raised in Forest Knolls, on the south side of Mount Sutro. Growing up here offered opportunities to explore Mount Sutro, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, and Glen Canyon on foot and by bicycle. He graduated from City College of San Francisco Horticulture Dept. with an Associate of Science in Landscape Design & Construction. 

 

In 1981 he opened a small business offering graphic design services, print production and sign, and display services in the Inner Sunset neighborhood, whereas a member of the Inner Sunset Merchants Association, he served six terms as President over a 25-year span. In 1991 he was asked to represent the Inner Sunset on the UCSF Community Advisory Group (CAG) where he initiated the development of the UCSF Open Space Reserve Management Plan (1998-2001). Craig worked with the CAG and UCSF to secure a $100,000 grant from the San Francisco Rotary Club in 2004 to restore a 2-acre former NIKE missile guidance site to a native plant meadow on the summit of Mount Sutro (Rotary Meadow). This was the beginning of his work on Mount Sutro which was followed by a trail improvement project led by The Trail Center that created new trail access to Rotary Meadow. 

 

In 2006 Craig worked with a small group of trail enthusiasts to uncover an undocumented, century old trail that was hidden for decades in the thick underbrush and running across the North and West sides of the mountain. In 2006 Craig co-founded the Sutro Stewards program and received permission from UCSF to restore the century-old trail, now called the Historic Trail. From 2006 to 2016 Craig served as Executive Director for the Sutro Stewards and used his training and trails knowledge to form a network of multi-use trails on Mount Sutro. 

 

Craig's formal training for trail work began in 2004 when he participated in Leadership and Trail Design and Construction training from the Trail Center. His training continued with the Tahoe Rim Trail Association (TRTA) for two annual sessions, 2008-2009, where he received a certificate for Advanced Trail Construction. Craig has contributed his knowledge and sweat to other organizations including VOCAL serving as a crew leader in San Francisco, Sonoma, and the East Bay. He worked with San Francisco's Rec and Park to open the Interior Greenbelt and rebuild the Lower Historic Trail on Mount Sutro, in conjunction with the development of the Philosophers Walk trail in McLaren Park, to name a few. As the Senior Program Advisor to the Sutro Stewards, Craig remains an avid runner and cyclist and is committed to advancing environmental education and building trails that link communities to nature.

Ildiko Polony

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Executive Director

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Ildiko grew up in apartment buildings in Oakland and did not have much access to nature as a child. Until discovering California native plants and habitat restoration, she focused her life on climate change activism and the pursuit of modern dance. 10 years ago, while a student at UC Berkeley, she planted a vegetable garden for the first time, and was overcome with how much life existed in her tiny San Francisco backyard. She asked herself what would happen if we tried to help this nature and how do you do it? This resulted in the epiphany that in order to foster local wildlife you must plant the plants that the wildlife evolved with, in other words, the plants native to your area. She became enamored with the flora of California. 

With this new found passion, she redirected her studies and received a Bachelor's of Science in Conservation and Resources Studies from UC Berkeley. Since then, she has worked at Larner Seeds as a seed amplifier, collector, and gardener, at Mission Blue Nursery as a Nursery Manager, at Literacy for Environmental Justice as a Nursery Manager, and now at Sutro Stewards as the Executive Director.

She is passionate about bringing the healing joy and satisfaction of participating in nature through habitat restoration to as many people as possible. Starting in our own backyards and moving outward to the greater community, she cherishes the opportunity to offer Mount Sutro as a place of engagement, healing, and community building through improving and maintaining access to the Mountain and working to enhance its biodiversity.

Kailyne Sarmiento

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Urban Ecology Intern

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Kailyne is San Francisco born and raised. Growing up, spending time outdoors with family members was always a treat, whether it was running around under the Monterey cypress in McLaren Park, finding sand dollars at Ocean Beach, admiring their grandma’s rose garden, or even driving up north to camp out for the weekend. Kailyne's appreciation for the natural world has grown fonder over the years, as they have cultivated their understanding of environmental justice through stewardship, growing local culturally relevant food for Southeast San Franciscans, youth education, and community organizing. Kailyne believes having a relationship to nature, and even having the means of access is essential for everybody. 

 

Kailyne is so excited to join Sutro Stewards as a conservation intern to build a deeper connection to the land. They believe it is important to maintain a reciprocal relationship with nature, and the environment that they are part of. In becoming part of this restoration and conservation effort on the mountain, Kailyne looks forward to being in community with the native plants, fog, animals, and fellow stewards!

Kelly Dodge

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Conservation Program Manager

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Kelly Dodge has been working for Sutro Stewards since October of 2019. Prior to becoming a staff member, Kelly was an intern with Sutro Stewards starting in September of 2018. Kelly has not only enjoyed getting to know and protect the plants and animals that call Mount Sutro home but also all the volunteers and partners who have dedicated their time to Sutro Stewards’ mission. 

 

Kelly studied at San Francisco State University and received her Bachelors of Science in environmental studies with a concentration in natural resource conservation and management. During her time at State, she developed her knowledge of the San Francisco Bay Area ecology and land management. Her time at SF State deepened her love for fieldwork, the outdoors, and her pursuit of an environmental career. 

 

A California local, Kelly grew up in Orange County, where she had regular access and enjoyment of a large wilderness park and the well-kept beaches of Southern California. These places helped shape her deep appreciation and connection to nature, specifically in regard to Californian wildlife. Her childhood tendency to explore has not been lost. In her free time, Kelly enjoys traversing new hiking trails around the bay area with her camera in tow. She loves seeing and capturing all the different plant species are growing along the way. Or she'll be seen exploring the neighborhoods of San Francisco finding new sights and good food along the way.

Dan Bernards

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Trail Program Manager

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Dan has worked with the Sutro Stewards as a volunteer since 2011 and as the Trails Program Manager since 2015. Dan received his hands-on trails skills and Crew Leader training through the Sutro Stewards program. In addition to coordinating crew leaders and volunteers on conventional trail repairs, he has facilitated a variety of trail improvements, realignments, and constructions, most notably the design and construction of the Clarendon Trail. Dan is an avid cyclist and trail user, and he has also been active with other local trail maintenance and construction efforts in San Francisco led by the San Francisco Parks & Recreation and San Francisco Urban Riders.

Malcolm Jaramillo

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Urban Ecology Intern

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As a second generation San Franciscan Malcolm is passionate about making the city a more livable and bountiful place for generations to come. He joined the Sutro Stewards team in October of 2023 with the drive to achieve this goal, and steward the land that has provided for his family since they emigrated from latin america in the 50’s. Having a bachelors in urban studies, he is excited about the possibilities of melding the urban and social fabric of San Francisco with abundant farms and greenery. Malcolm grew up in the southeast side of the city and has noted the disparities between different neighborhoods, and how access to nature as well as fresh produce has created a divide between those communities and their roots. 

 

With the knowledge he gains through this internship he gets that much closer to realizing his dreams of a more connected, green, and just San Francisco.

Sam Nelson

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Interim Conservation Field Manager

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Sam is originally from Philadelphia, PA but has been living in the Bay Area for the last 4 years. They worked in San Jose with Our City Forest, an urban forestry non-profit that grows and plants drought-tolerant and native trees and shrubs, as well as educates the public about environmental stewardship and plant maintenance.

 

At Our City Forest’s Community Nursery and Training Center, Sam trained AmeriCorps members, interns, docents, and volunteers on native plant propagation and cultivation, structural tree pruning and transplanting, plant pathology prevention, and urban beekeeping. They especially appreciated the opportunity to create relationships between San Jose residents and new plants, as well as cultivate native plants to benefit communities of people and pollinators alike. 

 

Sam lives in Cole Valley and is excited to build community with neighbors on Mt Sutro! Before working with Sutro Stewards, Sam had visited Mt Sutro regularly for trail runs, hikes, and plant identification. He is looking forward to contributing to restoration efforts in the Mt Sutro urban ecosystem. 

Sophie Haruna Klimcak

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Health In Nature Program Manager

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Sophie (M.Ed) is a learning experience designer who weaves programming from many threads: honoring ancestral relationships to place, listening and tending to the present, and co-crafting an equitable vision for all future kin and the planet.

 

She is the co-founder and director of Wild Awake, a nonprofit offering eco-relational experiences at the intersection of ancestry, mindfulness, and craft. From multicultural fermentation to botanical dye workshops and night walks, Sophie is excited to bring her experience and relationships with craftsfolk, healers, and adventurers to create a culture of care and well-being at Mt. Sutro as the Health in Nature Program Manager. 

 

Across her career, Sophie has leveraged her learning science background to support a diversity of audiences in educational spaces, including innovative school leaders in transforming high school with the XQ Institute, neurodiverse youth in 1:1 and classroom settings with Lotus Learning and Avenues: The World School, as well as university researchers studying civic engagement with Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

 

In her free time, Sophie dreams up optimistic climate fiction, stargazes, teaches yoga at her local neighborhood studio (200RYT), finds her way to the front of concerts, and travels around the world for backpacking adventures, hot springs culture, and big awe. She is currently training to become an eco-chaplain with a Shinto-Buddhist spiritual lens to support folks who are experiencing the impacts of environmental disasters and inequality. 

Here on earth, they are fond of ferns, indigo, and のり(nori); up in the cosmos, the many moons of Jupiter. 

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