Meet Hazel Gibson. She has been a volunteer at ‘Shoreline at Mountain View’ since it opened in 1984. She’s the only original “Volunteer Ranger” from 1984 who still volunteers. And, the most amazing part is that she has logged in over 3,500 volunteer hours at Shoreline! Hazel turned 90 this week. Her shift is usually on Fridays in the middle of the day. I met her this week and got the chance to sit inside the Gate House at the entrance of the park with her while she counted cars and people, answered questions about the park and the restaurants inside.
She started volunteering when she retired from teaching kindergarten at Monta Loma School. Hazel talked about how much she enjoys being at Shoreline and that she has always had a fondness for the outdoors. As the geese flew overhead she stopped talking for a moment to listen to the calls that they make as they go past the Gate House. She’s very familiar with the different types of birds in the park and mentioned how nice it is that the burrowing owls and other marsh birds are not bothered by dogs since the park doesn’t allow domesticated animals inside. “It’s really a special place,” she told me when she was talking about the wildlife inside.
And along that same idea is the fact that ‘Shoreline at Mountain View’ doesn’t have picnic tables, soccer fields and a barbeque area. It’s just not that kind of park and Mountain View has lots of places where you are welcome to have a birthday party at picnic tables, play soccer or spend time on the swing-set. ‘Shoreline at Mountain View’ is for an afternoon of windsurfing or golf, or trail walking and getting to know the waterfowl and marsh plants. It’s where we go to visit Mother Nature in Mountain View. The word “park” isn’t even in the name. It’s called “Shoreline at Mountain View” so that people understand that it’s a special place in our city. Hazel and I talked about how her job also involves educating people as they come past the Gate House. If they haven’t been here before, they might need a few pamphlets to understand all that Shoreline has to offer.
Hazel has lived in Mountain View for over 60 years and she and her husband raised their 5 children here. She recalled that Mountain View was all orchards when she and her husband moved here and how much it has grown-up, which is all the more reason that it is important for us to have places that are still wild and full of birds and marshlands.
I was surprised at how spacious and comfortable the inside of the Gate House felt. It’s really a peaceful place to spend some time and, I must admit, I want to become a Volunteer Ranger now. There are many different volunteer shifts and positions available. Most cars pause slightly at the Gate House as they continue on to Michaels Restaurant or the golf course. It’s just enough time for the Volunteer Ranger to count the people in the car. Hazel told me that during her 3 hour shift, there will be 700 to 1000 visitors entering the park. I wondered how many visitors Hazel has counted over her 3,500 hours as a volunteer. As I was leaving, Hazel told me how important it is to keep active. “Keep walking” she said to me as she explained that she had literally walked every trail in the bay area. She loves to walk and now that I saw how happy and healthy she is, I’m going to purchase a new pair of walking shoes and hit the trails. I want to be just like Hazel when I grow up.
(That last line was just a joke. I’m already a grown up, I promise.)