Superintendent Woody Smeck accepts a congratulatory "Santa Monica Mountains
National Recreation Area" cake from Jody Thomas of the Old Topanga Homeowners,
Inc. when he was honored for his service by the Las Virgenes Homeowner's
Federation on Wednesday, February 29. On April 16, Smeck will take over as the
Deputy Superintendent of Yosemite National Park.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation and the Calabasas City Council honored Superintendent Woody Smeck for his 21 years of outstanding stewardship of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA).
After serving the Santa Monica mountains for more than two decades, Superintendent of SMMNRA, Woody Smeck, was promoted to Deputy Superintendent of Yosemite National Park, a job he starts in April.
Smeck, the gentle and soft-spoken steward of the mountains, is well known to have worked tirelessly and tactfully coordinating diverse agencies over the past 11 years to protect and expand the public lands in the national recreation area.
During his tenure, Smeck has overseen nearly 155,000 acres of mixed public open space and private lands surrounded by an urban population of 19 million people.
According to the National Park Service (NPS), the combined parklands host more than 35 million visitors per year, making the Santa Monica mountains area among the most visited federal parklands in the nation.
Smeck said he was also proud of building a solid working relationship with the California State Parks and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
With more than 20 different land-owner types and more than 70 stakeholder groups, the Santa Monica mountains are considered to be one of the most complex units of the National Park System.
Yet, many consider it is Smecks tactful negotiating skills that appear to have had the most impact on the complex park system.
For instance, in spite of the economy, Smeck was able to obtain a $615-million investment gained by leveraging public money with private donations, resulting in the acquisition of 85,000 acres of public parkland over the years.
COURTESY OF LA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS MESSENGER, MARCH 22, 2012, PAGE 16
SupervisorWoody Smeck, center was honored for his service by Los Angeles County Supervisors, from left, Don Knabe, Mark Ridley Thomas, Zev Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina and Mike Antonovich. On April 16, Smeck will take over as the Deputy Superintendent of Yosemite National Park.
Woody has been a great adviser to me, said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. We always check with Woody when somebody has a hair-brained idea about land acquisition or one thing or another. We always went to Woody and said, does this make sense? and if he had thumbs up, then we went ahead with it; if he said not that high a priority, we didnt go ahead with it. Because he always has had the long-term view and the long-term vision of the Santa Monica mountains in mind, he has been an incredible steward of the mountains, an incredible representative of the National Park Service.
Prior to his recent appointment in Yosemite, Smeck served a stint as regional director for the National Capital Region, overseeing the National Mall and parks in Washington, D.C. The National Capital Region includes the Washington Monument and the Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorials.
The top manager at Yosemite is the superintendent, Don Neubacher, Smeck said. He hired me as deputy superintendent and is responsible for overall management; I am his number two person and oversee park operations.
Woody Smeck grew up in Bakersfield and studied landscape architecture. He began his tenure with the NPS as the chief of maintenance in 1996, became deputy superintendent in 1998 and was promoted to superintendent in 2001.
He and his wife, Karen, have lived in Moorpark for 21 years. They have two daughters, Allison and Megan. When Smeck begins work in Yosemite, the family has plans to relocate to Mariposa, a gateway city west of Yosemite Valley.
Throughout his term at SMMNRA, Smeck has said his main goals were to provide an outstanding customer experience for all park visitors.
We increased emphasis on creating an exceptional visitor experience for guests, including providing better signs, clean and accessible facilities, more recreation trails, and more ranger-led education programs for visitors and school children, Smeck said. We built a stronger relationship with communities and local government to promote a better quality of life in the region, including preserving natural scenery and places of nature and history.
Yet, when asked what stood out most during his tenure with the Santa Monica mountains, Smeck always has a ready answer.
My most memorable moment was taking the President of the United States (George W. Bush) on a 45-minute hike at Rancho Sierra Vista, Smeck said. We were mostly alone, although the Secret Service was hiding everywherein the trees, on the ridgelines, in the streams, etc.
We discussed the national recreation area and the many partnerships that supported conservation and visitor education programs. He was especially interested in the relationship between the communities within the national recreation area and the National Park Service. At one point, a small airplane entered the air space above us. Within two to three seconds, a trio of fighter jets raced into the area and scrambled the small plane out of our view. It was impressive to see the level of security afforded to the President, though I must admit my heart raced during the whole experience.
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors honored Woody Smeck with a lovely aerial video of the Santa Monica mountains and an official proclamation at their March 6, 2012 meeting.
During his tenure, he exercised wise and conscientious oversight of these precious lands, adding thousands of acres of new public open space and working closely with partners in all levels of government within the community to craft and implement prudent policies ranging from innovative and effective wildfire prevention and management and educational outreach to preservation of sensitive wildlife habitats, said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. He has been an unfailingly cheerful and enthusiastic advocate for this enormous recreation area, delivering countless public presentations and media appearances to unravel the complexity and emphasize the importance of this vast natural preserve at the edge of the continental United States.
Then, Yaroslavsky made some off the cuff remarks expressing his appreciation of Smeck:
It is not a surprise to me that the National Park Service has recognized his talents and has promoted him now to really one of the primo positions in the National Park Service, being deputy superintendent at Yosemite, Yaroslavsky continued. We all want your cell phone number so, when we want to make reservations at the Ahwahnee Lodge, you can help us get a reservation. I look forward to visiting you, and getting the Woody Smeck tour of Yosemite, which, if its anything like the tours and the education he gave us on the Santa Monica mountains, it ought to be something special.
With that, Yaroslavsky conferred upon Woody the highest honor he could from the County.
Supervisor Yaroslavsky and all the supervisors here, I cant thank you enough for your support and your leadership in conserving the Santa Monica mountains, not only for the people of Los Angeles this is truly a nationally significant place and its why the National Park Service is here and many people from across the country come to visit this very special place, Smeck told the Supervisors.
It represents a piece of natural heritage of Los Angeles that is reminiscent of early California and native communities and the mosaic of history right up to the present with very vibrant communities interwoven into beautiful state, local and national parks. It proves on a national scale that you can have conservation and vibrant communities interwoven and working well together.
City of Calabasas
At their January 25 meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Mary Sue Maurer and the City of Calabasas also presented a proclamation to Woody Smeck in honor of his years as Superintendent.
Woody has served superbly in the nations largest urban national park where more than 70 agencies work to preserve open space and provide recreational opportunities, Maurer said. Woody has really turned this into a premiere park and a gold example of an urban park next to a big ci