A new generation opening doors to the outdoors

We recently sat down with California Advisory Board members, Lucy Finn and Ward Wolff, to learn about what inspired them to get involved with the Trust for Public Land. Lucy and Ward spearhead California’s NewGen group, which is promoting land conservation and park equity efforts among a new generation of young professionals across the state.

1. What does spending time outdoors mean to you?  

Lucy: Having a place outside to be by some trees, breathe fresh air, maybe look at a body of water is essential to our wellbeing. During work from home, more than ever, I appreciated the parks in San Francisco where I could get out of the house for an hour to reflect and reset. The Trust for Public Land helped protect and restore Glen Park, this fabulous little canyon near my apartment at the time. I would run through the trails, walk with friends over coffee, and have an after work stroll with my partner. That park absolutely kept me sane. 
Ward: The outdoors for me means friends and family. Some of my best memories growing up are on a trail, camping, being at the beach, all with loved ones. And now that I have a young daughter, I can see how much she loves being outside and looking at the trees, feeling the breeze, and just watching the world go by when we go on our daily strolls in the neighborhood here in Los Angeles.   

2. How did you first hear about TPL and what motivated you to get involved with the organization? 

Lucy: I first learned about TPL through my godfather, who was a longtime supporter of the organization and passionate about land protection and public access. He suggested I volunteer at the office for my high school community service class. I ended up being assigned to their digitization process where I would enter the different land acquisitions into a computer database. I remember being in awe of how many millions of acres TPL has been able to protect over the years and what a range of terrain.
Ward: I first learned of TPL when I was working in New York City for the nonprofit arm of the NYC Parks Dept. Some years later I joined the steering committee of a young professionals group that was starting up to organize events, talks, happy hours, and that sort of thing. When my wife and I moved to California, I wanted to deepen my involvement with the organization back in my home state; the opportunity arose to join the California Advisory Board and I jumped on it. 

3. What have you enjoyed most about serving on TPL’s California Advisory Board?  

Lucy: I am excited about the new park equity methodology just launched in 2021. TPL has published its Park Score for many years to shine a light on places that have invested in green space. Factoring park equity into the equation takes the next step and highlights areas of opportunity for cities to invest in parks where they are most needed, instead of just the most affluent neighborhoods. 
Ward: I am so proud to be included on a roster full of interesting, diverse leaders across industries in California, all united by a shared interest and passion for TPL’s work. I also really value the chance to develop meaningful relationships with TPL’s staff, to get to know their work, see them out on the land or in a park, and feel like I get to contribute in some way. 

4. What is your top environmental priority?  

Lucy: I was originally drawn to The Trust for Public Land because of the millions upon millions of acres it has protected from development. However, as I have come to know more about TPL’s vision, I have grown a great appreciation for their work on access. I think people intuitively know that being in nature is good for us. 
Ward: Environmental concerns are all so intertwined; each area has implications for the other. In general I would say sustainable cities, climate, equity, recreation are top of mind for me. 

5. What sets TPL apart from other environmental organizations? 

Lucy: One aspect that I believe sets TPL apart is their ability to collaborate with local community groups. As was the case with Hilltop Park in the Bayview area of San Francisco—TPL worked to design a park that residents actually wanted. I appreciate TPL’s commitment to designing green spaces that truly serve the people that use them. 
Ward: What really sets TPL apart is the focus on parks for people. Everything is through the lens of not just what is being conserved, protected, etc., but who gets access to it as a result: what communities does it serve, how does it increase access to the benefits of nature, open space and fresh air for those that really need it, and in communities that have been historically underinvested and under resourced. 

6. What would you like to pass onto future generations? How does your work with TPL support that?  

Lucy: As Joni Mitchel once said “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” On one of our first NewGen hikes we went to Tennessee Valley Beach in the Marin Headlands. Up to that point I had no idea that that entire area was an inch away from becoming a gated community with expensive condos and a shopping mall. I want to pass on to future generations the dazzling natural beauty of places like the Marin Headlands, Coast Dairies, Tomales Bay, Banning Ranch, and so many more. 
Ward: As a fifth generation Californian who has benefited from the social and environmental activism of our forebears, I want to ensure that these spaces—whether in the Sierra, in the middle of cities, in the suburbs, or on the coast—and the civic engagement that supports them lives on. In order to serve and inspire the next generation, and to ensure a prosperous future for our state, we have to make these spaces accessible, relevant and celebrated no matter ones zip code or circumstance.
To learn more about the Trust for Public Land’s NewGen program, please contact Greer Monteverde at greer.monteverde@tpl.org. To learn more and support The Trust for Public Land’s California program, please click here.