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Local man given environmental award

Parks and recreation coordinator cites variety in nature and culture offered by Santa Clarita Valley

Posted: April 13, 2009 1:36 a.m.
Updated: April 13, 2009 8:00 a.m.

James McCarthy was recognized for his efforts to develop and preserve parks and open spaces. He received the 2009 Special Award for Outstanding Service by the Board of Directors of the California Parks and Recreation Society.

 

James McCarthy remembers burying a casketed oak tree with his friends as a teenager living in a developing Simi Valley.

"It was a very environmental time," he said. "People were just becoming aware in the suburbs that we needed to preserve something."

There were times when he and his friends would sit down at the Runkle Reservoir in Ventura County and watch the deer come down for water in the morning.

These environmental roots suggest some of the reasons that the current Newhall resident received the 2009 Special Award for Outstanding Service by the Board of Directors of the California Park and Recreation Society.

The award recognizes McCarthy for his efforts to develop and preserve parks and open spaces, his dedication to protecting the environment, his volunteerism and his commitment to animal rescue programs, according to information provided by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

"This one was interesting because its recognition was from park commissioners who are basically volunteers," said McCarthy who has placed the hand-carved award of a bird and its nest in his office, in the company of several other awards.

"Having been a community advocate, I know these are other community advocates who gave their own money and own time and have a real passion for parks, park programs, and open space," he added. "It's a really great honor."

After serving four years in the Air Force, McCarthy earned a degree in parks and recreation and park administration from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

In 1984, he was hired by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation and he currently serves as parks project coordinator. He's also worked as trails coordinator, park planner and associate landscape architect. He's coordinated construction of gymnasiums, swimming pools, community centers, playgrounds, playing fields, courts and walking and equestrian pathways.

"Each one is a challenge, and each one, when it's accomplished, it's something that you take pride in," he said.

In addition to helping to preserve more than 6,000 acres in the Newhall Ranch development, McCarthy helped establish the 400-acre Michael D. Antonovich Open Space in the Santa Clarita Woodlands, dedicated in 2002, which occupies densely wooded portions of the 4,000-acre Santa Clarita Woodlands.

"It has five or six different habitats from chaparral to native walnut to grasslands," he said. "It's got all these different things going on and still has all these living animals. It's great."

McCarthy said he'd like to see the completion of linked open space completely surrounding the Santa Clarita Valley.

"That would be the best contribution we could make for future generations," he said. "Wildlife would stay healthy and children would have a place to see nature."

Santa Clarita residents should be proud of the opportunities they have now to experience nature and culture, McCarthy said.

"I don't know of anywhere else where you have this kind of variety," he said, listing examples such as William S. Hart Park, Castaic Lake and more.

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