The Finish: Caryl Hart

Creating a world-class park system is the goal of this local

Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart sits for a portrait in Sebastopol’s Ragle Ranch Regional Park. (photo by Charlie Gesell)

Caryl Hart, 55, Director of Sonoma County Regional Parks, has a grand goal: to create a world-class park system. “We have the basics in the county’s natural resources,” she says, “but it’s also about connecting everything together and providing access to everyone.”

Then: Born in Los Angeles, grew up in Santa Ynez Valley

Now: Lives in Occidental

Morning ritual: “I wake up at 6 a.m. and work out with an elliptical trainer, videos and apps until about 7 a.m., and then I drink a Vitamix that I bought at the fair this year. Every year I get some weird thing at the fair.”

Biggest challenges: “The most immediate was I walked into a 25 percent budget cut for the department, on top of a 20 percent cut the year before.”

Parks fundraising during her three-year tenure: More than $1 million.

How she met her husband, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart: “Mickey was collaborating on a recording called ‘Voices of the Rainforest.’ I got involved through a mutual friend who introduced us, to help him promote it in the environmental community. That was 1990. I’d been to zero Grateful Dead shows at that point.”

Favorite Grateful Dead song: “Eyes of the World.”

Academia: Law degree at University of San Francisco; Ph.D. at University of California Berkeley in environmental science, policy and management.

Past life: Public defender in San Francisco and Marin County.

Favorite Sonoma County trail: “Right now it has to be the Hood Mountain trail off Los Alamos Road that we just reopened.”

Go-to snack on the trail: Nuts. “Although I have a bad habit of going on hikes without food or water.”

Guilty pleasure: Watching “Homeland” on a Kindle while backpacking along the Lost Coast.

Best advice: “Somebody told me when I was 23 or 24 that ‘You get older and you grow in experience, but you always want to feel the same as when you were young.’ Having that energy and motivation of a young person with that experience and wisdom of someone older is the key.'”

Personal philosophy: “I never look at things as restrictions. I always look at what the possibilities are.”