In one of the toughest calls of a career dedicated to improving the intersection of nature and people, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy Executive Director Trish Boaz announced this month she will retire Dec. 31.
“It’s been my dream,” Boaz said of the job she has held since 2013. “This has been absolutely the joy of my career.”
In November, Boaz reflected upon some of that joy before a sellout crowd at River Valley Fest, the Conservancy’s annual fundraising event.
Resplendent in a paisley dress — long and flowing like her blonde mane — Boaz greeted guests with smiles and hugs. At one point, she joined the band to sing a version of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.”
Later in the program, a representative of Third District County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer’s office, Rebecca Smith, recognized Boaz and her commitment to the environment by proclaiming Nov. 7, 2021, as “Trish Boaz Day” throughout San Diego County. Boaz dedicated the proclamation to her mentor, attorney Jim Dawe, who had died only weeks earlier.
Peter Shapiro, a member of the Board of Directors that hired Boaz, said her work has greatly boosted the Conservancy’s visibility.
Jim Smith, the Conservancy’s president, added that Boaz will be a tough act to follow.
In response to all of the praise, Boaz said: “Now I know how they feel at the Academy Awards.”
If personality and panache define her leadership, so does substance.
During her tenure, the Conservancy secured more than $4.5 million in grants, acquired 118 acres in open space, restored 45 acres of habitat and added six miles of trails to the River Park. Facebook followers swelled from 50 to 5,500.
She gets people of all ages and interests excited about educational programming. She pulls on gloves and works shoulder to shoulder with volunteers at restoration sites. In remote reaches of the River Park, she greets hikers participating in the Coast to Crest Trail Challenge, an annual series of five hikes now in its fifth year. She leads guided hikes and joins the groups for a drink afterward at what she calls “motivation destinations.”
Promoting conservation comes naturally to Boaz. As a child in the Bay Area, Trish and seven siblings spent summers in national parks. As a summer clerk in her father’s law office, she dissected California’s newly-enacted Environmental Quality Act and the Coastal Act.
Later, she dove deeper into land use and environmental issues as a legal secretary and paralegal for Jim Dawe, an esteemed attorney and her good friend.
The law office gig segued into an 18-year career at the County of San Diego, where she served as an architect of the Multiple Species Conservation Program, managed the County Trails program and, as chief of the Resource Management Division, negotiated the acquisition of more than 7,100 acres for open space. To pay for those deals, Boaz leveraged $44 million of county funds with $47 million from private, federal, state and regional sources.
Boaz has worked similar magic for the Conservancy.
Earlier this year, Boaz closed escrow on a 117-acre habitat acquisition near Lake Hodges. She rallied donors to fund a 10 percent match while government grants covered the balance of the $2.7 million purchase.
“The state and feds — they love to give us money,” she said. “They trust us based on our track record of getting things done.”
Boaz told gala guests that their passion makes the Conservancy’s accomplishments possible. So does a talented staff, enthusiastic volunteers, generous partners and a hard-working and visionary board of directors.
In addition to her work at the Conservancy, Boaz is an advisory committee member for the City of San Diego Watershed Quality Improvement Plan and the City of San Diego/County of San Diego San Pasqual Valley Groundwater Sustainability Plan. She is a member of the Del Mar-Solana Beach Rotary Club and a board member for Citizens Coordinate for Century 3. In 2019, San Diego Daily Transcript identified Boaz as one of 50 most influential leaders. San Diego Magazine in 2015 named her Woman of the Year.
Boaz works as a crisis interventionist for the San Diego Police Department. In 2018, she was honored as the department’s Crisis Interventionist of the Year. She said she is very sad to leave the program.
In retirement, Boaz plans to sing, write haiku, dabble in community theater, hike Yosemite and the Pacific Crest Trail, and (big surprise) volunteer with the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County. “What we do is so important not just for the wildlife but for human emotion and strength,” Boaz said. “The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy checks all of those boxes.”