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Swift bugs out of Placerita

Nature center’s superintendent leaving for post in Bay Area

Posted: October 28, 2008 9:47 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Ian Swift, who is leaving the Placerita Canyon Nature Center for a position in San Francisco, holds one of his harlequin beetles from Costa Rica.

It’s what Ian Swift calls a “bittersweet” moment.

The superintendent of Placerita Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center spent his last full day at the park Tuesday and is heading to the Bay Area as a biologist for the Contra Costa Water District where he plans to restore the habitats of threatened and endangered species.

The Santa Clarita City Council honored Swift at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Ian Swift is one of those wonderful people from the community,” said Sierra Club member Sandra Catell. “He will not only be missed, he’s going to leave a hole in the place.”

Until a permanent superintendent is hired, Frank Hoffman, Placerita’s recreations services supervisor and education director, will lead the park.

“I love, love this nature park,” Swift said Monday, surrounded by packed boxes. “I’ve called it my home for 15 years.”

Still, Swift remains excited about his new opportunity.

Swift spent the last six years as superintendent of the center. Up until his appointment as superintendent, he worked as an employee helping to develop activities and programs, like Junior Ranger, that are still in place today.

Councilwoman Marsha McLean said Swift has been “extremely special to us in Santa Clarita.”

The San Fernando Valley native began his 20-year career at Placerita as a volunteer in 1988 at age 11.
Although he visited the park with his parents to help care for animals and assist the programs, Swift joked that he really came to “just be obnoxious.”

After becoming an employee, Swift helped to initiate community programs that shaped his career but serving as superintendent allowed him to take on bigger projects.

“My biggest accomplishment is working with the volunteer foundation here to get the county to use and support the bond money for improvements to the park and nature center,” he said.

It’s a goal that should be met in the spring when the renovated center reopens to the public.

When completed, kids and nature lovers will be treated to an environmentally-friendly building complete with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. The wood and concrete removed during renovation was recycled and any new wood used for the center comes from sustainable forests, Swift said. The walls are filled with ground-up newspapers as insulation, Swift said.

While teaching school children and hosting countless programs for the community remain a special memories, Swift will miss Placerita’s nature.

“I’m going to miss looking out on the Oak woodland watching Copper Hawk soar over,” he said. “It’s what I’m going to miss the most.”

Swift wants to stay connected to the center and hopes to visit at least once a year to help teach docents during the annual training sessions.

In the meantime, he will continue his trips to Central and South America to research beetles.

Despite all the future plans, Swift believes the center serves as a beneficial aspect of people’s lives, especially Santa Clarita Valley residents who spend their weekdays commuting and sitting in an office.

“On the weekends or their days off, they have places like the nature center and park to be able to let off some steam,” he said. “It’s a special place. It really makes this community special and stand out.”


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