Sonoma County Parks Commissioner Karen Collins likes the fact that she will be presented with the Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley’s Conservation Award on Arbor Day. As a founder of Sonoma’s Overlook Trail, a dump site transformed into a beautiful open, public space, she’s proud to say not one tree was removed in the process.
Collins said she’s thrilled with the award, having attended the Arbor Day ceremony every year. “I have so much respect for the previous winners,” she said. Recipients have been the late Bob Cannard Sr., Tom Whitworth, John Donnelly, Pat Eliot and Mickey Cook, and, in 2013, Tom Rusert.
Originally from Seattle, Collins bought a Sonoma home in the mid-80s, and moved here fulltime in 1998. The “city girl” was charmed by the area, one she could get involved in and become part of the community. “I liked it here, and said, ‘why not?’”
Collins is a cancer survivor. When diagnosed, her doctor recommended reducing stress, so she cut down her time running a tour company. Volunteer work became a fulfilling way to invest her time.
“There are so many organizations here, everybody is looking for volunteers,” she said. “For people who’ve had careers, it’s way to put that expertise to works and get things done.”
Collins dove into environmental issues. In addition to the Overlook Trail project, she counts the Cows Not Casinos campaign, the grassroots effort to keep a casino off the Bay wetlands, as a highlight. “It’s very gratifying when you see the town come together, and see the results.”
As another major accomplishment, she lists helping to keep Jack London State Park open as a boardmember of the nonprofit group formed to take over the park from the state. “We signed the first contract, and saved it from being closed,” she said. “Now, it’s self-sufficient.”
She also serves on the Advisory Council of both the Sonoma Land Trust and Bay Area Ridge Trail.
The award presentation is part of Sonoma’s Arbor Day Celebration on the Plaza, Friday, April 25 at 11 a.m.