Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District Hires New Executive Director
By Justin Ebrahemi
Rafael Payan, Executive Director of the Monterey Peninsula Park District. (Photographer: Stef Pummel)
The Ventana Chapter welcomes Rafael Payan, the newly appointed Executive Director of the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (MPRPD), to our community. Serving in the recreation and open space conservation industry for nearly three decades, Payan has worked as a National Park ranger at Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Cavern Parks, project manager, acquisition specialist, executive director for Arizona's Natural Resources, and much more.
Currently, he sits as a board member for the White Mountain Apache Tribe's Heritage Foundation to make facility improvements on tribal land. Payan shares his sagacity with the nation's current park directors, as an instructor for the National Parks and Recreation Association's Directors School. He has partaken in the development of the New Sante Fe Trail along the front ridge of the Rocky Mountains, as well as the Kartchner Caverns State Park, which was acclaimed by National Geographic.
With so much under his belt, the Ventana Chapter is blessed to have him join our environmental effort. The ambitious director has only been part of our community for three months, yet when asked what his current projects are, it's obvious he's been busy. "We believe we can become a premier provider and conservator of open space."
The MPRPD is working in partnership with the Ventana Wildlife Society to establish condor feeding stations along the Big Sur Coast to enhance their northward movement. These stations would discourage condors from flying inland for food, where they can get lead poisoning by feeding on animals that have been hunted. Also along the Big Sur Coast, Payan leads his team to ensure that Palo Corona Regional Park is soon fully permitted to be more open to the public.
Payan is additionally working on the development of the Garland Ranch Education Center and Museum in Carmel, set to open this Earth Day in April. "We are placing much of our focus on the potential development of youth science camps at several sites. It is critical that we reach our youth and have them develop a positive, strong, and abiding relationship with the natural environment. As empirical evidence shows, we protect those things we love," explains Payan.
Hailing from sunny Arizona, the takes his family hiking despite Monterey's precarious weather. "Moving here in late summer was interesting for us, as we were not used to the fog that persistently rolled in from the Pacific Ocean every afternoon. But we have adjusted well and feel blessed to be here."
Payan has been offered several other positions in the western United States. When asked why he chose a position in Monterey, he humbly said "This was the place we felt we could most make a difference with regard to environmental preservation, conservation and, frankly, getting folks to become more engaged in a positive manner with the natural environment…This region is one of the most beautiful and diverse natural landscapes on the planet. We wanted to be part of it and the communities in the region."
Payan invites environmental leaders, educators, and students to open lines of communication with the MPRPD to address challenges together.The Ventana Chapter welcomes Rafael Payan to our community with great optimism for the future of our Peninsula.
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