The Board of Friends of Griffith Park is composed of park, recreation and environmental activists and historic preservationists who have compiled a collective record of successful advocacy for Griffith Park and other open spaces in the City of Los Angeles.
They have served as leaders and board members of major non-profit public advocacy groups, represented the community on park oversight committees and panels, supported and participated in park service projects, and educated the public about Griffith Park and its issues. They are deeply knowledgeable about Griffith Park’s human and natural history.
Officers of the Board
President, Friends of Griffith Park
For well over fifteen years, Gerry Hans has been active with park issues and was a diligent member of the Griffith Park Master Plan Working Group which convened in 2005. He served as president of Oaks Homeowners for three years (2005-2007) and fought for the City’s toughest anti-mansionization code to protect the community’s unique character with plenty of open space. Gerry also played a role in establishing invaluable scientific work for the park beginning in late 2006 through the Griffith Park Natural History Survey. He served on the Parks, River and Open Space Committee of the local neighborhood council until 2010, and is currently active with the county-wide helicopter noise reduction movement.
Gerry comes from a large Midwest farm family of ten and holds a Biology degree from University of Illinois. He began graduate work at Colorado State in ecology, but was side-tracked by corporate positions, moving to Los Angeles 34 years ago. After leaving the corporate world, he and his spouse built a successful small business, from which he is now retired.
As a founding member of Friends of Griffith Park and its inaugural president, Gerry keeps busy tracking the organization’s progress with advocacy issues, including the revitalization of historic Fern Dell. He enjoys hiking and “botanizing” in Griffith Park, while thinking about ways to protect the park’s rich Mediterranean habitat and wildlife, in balance with recreation.
Gerry has been closely engaged with the science and conservation aspects within Griffith Park, and recently coordinated successful efforts with other conservationists to purchase and protect acreage adjacent to the Park.
VP, Finance and Administration
A resident of the Oaks neighborhood near Griffith Park for 30 years, Mary Button has been very active in the Park. She and her husband owned and operated a successful running apparel business for 18 years. Mary graduated Magna Cum Laude from Shippensburg University, with a BS degree in Business Administration / Accounting.
An accomplished long distance runner, Mary has run over 50,000 miles, mostly upon the trails in Griffith Park. She qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 1996 and 2000. She participated in the 2000 Trials at the age of 40. Mary is a co-founder and past President of the Los Feliz Flyers, a grass-roots running club.
Mary is one of the founding Directors of Friends of Griffith Park, and is the current Treasurer. She is also a member of the Sierra Club. She has volunteered at the Good Shepherd Shelter for battered women, and was also a volunteer for several seasons as an assistant coach for Girls on the Run.
She enjoys hiking and bicycling and is a travel enthusiast and avid reader.
“Los Angeles has been home for as long as I can remember. And, many of my memories are of being outside enjoying nature with my family. Every weekend we would traipse off to the mountains, the beach, or the desert. Occasionally, we’d hike the trails or enjoy a leisurely picnic in Griffith Park.”
This memory of enjoying nature so close to home led Dora Herrera to join the efforts of several Los Feliz residents to ensure the park remains a beautiful and natural place for us and for future generations. California-raised, Dora has been active in the Los Feliz community since 1976, when her family opened a popular community eatery.
Through her business, Dora became involved in grassroots efforts to establish two local organizations, the Los Feliz Village Business Improvement District (LFVBID) and the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council (GGPNC). She was a board member of both groups and served four terms as the LFVBID President. As a member of the GGPNC Parks, River and Open Space (PROS) committee she worked with many devoted and wonderful people dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of Griffith Park and the L.A. River.
A Brown University Athlete of the Year, Dora learned the importance of teamwork and working together for a common cause as a multi-sport varsity athlete. This mindset led to her involvement in the City Impact Lab, whose mission is “to enable and empower a more civically engaged citizenry to make an impact in their city.”
Her focus on participating in, and improving her community, led to her being recognized by former California Assembly Leader Dario Frommer, as the 2004 Small Business Woman of the Year. The following year, Dora and her mother received the James Beard Award in the America’s Classics category for culinary excellence and community involvement.
Dora is also a board member of the Friends of the Los Feliz Library, the co-founder of the Architecture & Beyond Lecture Series, a member of Las Comadres, the Dining Divas and, the Taste of Mexico Association.
Vice President, Volunteer Services
Laura Howe grew up in Columbus, Ohio and moved to Los Angeles in 1985 after she received a scholarship to USC. After receiving a BFA in Fine Art, she worked for several years as an artist and art fabricator for several large art museums and galleries in Los Angeles including the Autry Museum. She became a clothing and fashion designer in 1996 and started her own dress shop in 2002. Her boutique shop makes hand made dresses in Sunset Junction in Silver Lake. She learned to sew from her seamstress grandmother and her mother, otherwise she is self taught.
Laura fell in love with Griffith Park while working at the Autry Museum; after work she would run and hike through the hills of Griffith Park. She met up with several running groups over the years such as the Wild Mountain Runners and A Runners Circle and has competed in many amateur running events.
Laura has been volunteering in Griffith Park for over 20 years. She has always felt compelled to protect our open spaces for both people and wildlife. It started with a Mother’s Day oak tree planting with TreePeople where she learned to be a planting leader, and many of the trees are still growing strong even after fire and drought. She participated in the Park, River and Open Space Committee of the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council. Later she was elected to the Neighborhood Council and served for two years.
Secretary and Media Coordinator
Growing up in Virginia was a child’s dream. Kathryn’s family lived in an area surrounded by woods and creatures of the woods. She spent nearly as much time wandering through tree-covered thickets, as she spent at home, be it spring, summer, fall or even the dead of winter. In the spring and summer, her brothers, sisters, friends would spend hours climbing hillsides, creating forts out of rocks and brush, looking for tadpoles in the nearby creek and marveling at fearless copperheads sunning themselves along the rocky shorelines. She took it for granted that every child had access to the same wooded wilderness as she had growing up.
It was only when she moved to Los Angeles she realized that a vast number of Angelenos live in park-poor neighborhoods. They seldom see wild creatures that inhabit most wooded areas.
Long ago it occurred to her that this park needed protection. When she first visited the Fern Dell area before permanently moving here, she noticed the lushness of the area. But as she visited the area more she began to notice an increase in graffiti and a decrease in fern populations.
When she became involved with the PROS (Parks, River & Open Space) committee of the local neighborhood council, she became aware of multiple park issues and the need for park preservation. The value of this park in metropolitan LA deserves protection not just for today, but for future generations.
This was also the reason she became a member of the Friends of Griffith Park Board. She sees the joy on the faces of kids coming into the park as picnickers and Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) hikers and watches them dash around the Park because they don’t have the luxury of running free in a wild space as she once enjoyed as a child.
VP, Community Liaison
Lucinda Phillips is originally from England and has worked in the film business for 20 years as a writer, producer, director culminating as Executive Producer at Colossal Pictures. Her feature film experience began as Assistant Director and Producer on Tom Wait’s feature “Big Time.”
She has made four independent feature films which premiered at the AFI Festival. These films have shown at numerous festivals worldwide and have been released in the United States.
Lucinda was instrumental in the filming of “Fambul Tok” a documentary that tells the story of healing through the intimate stories of perpetrators and victims after the devastating Civil ‘Blood Diamonds’ War in Sierra Leone. “Fambul Tok” was awarded a Sundance Institute Documentary Film Grant.
She has a degree in Mindfulness Facilitation from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center, part of the Semel Institute of Neuroscience & Human Behavior at the School of Medicine. She is currently teaching UCLA Mindfulness courses and volunteers as a teacher of Mindfulness and Meditation at the Los Angeles Central Library.
In 2003, she was a founding member of the Parks Rivers & Open Space Committee with the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council (now named Los Feliz N.C.) Lucinda is an appointed member of the Griffith Park Advisory Board. She is also a founding member of Friends of Griffith Park and is a member of the Executive Committee acting as Community Liaison.
Lucinda is currently working as a consultant for independent films as well as writing her next project and is a daily hiker in the park.
Carol Prager Brusha has spent her life enjoying Griffith Park. On many Sundays as a child, she picnicked with her parents and sister on the expansive lawn north of the Greek Theatre then hiked from the Bird Sanctuary up to Captain’s Roost. She took tennis lessons at the courts near the Greek Theatre and during the summer months, the family went to concerts at the theatre, which at that time offered only classical events. Walks in Fern Dell and hikes to the Observatory were also part of the family’s agenda.
During her college years at USC, she hiked with her mother and their dog on weekends. They often sat at Captain’s Roost where a small group of elderly German immigrants met. Years later, she joined the night hikes led by the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club and that is where she met her husband, Ron Brusha. They became Sierra Club leaders and led strenuous hikes.
Carol is a professional writer and editor. Her career started as a news reporter. Later she went into advertising and public relations working for a national cosmetics company and hospitals.
She was hired as an assistant by the late author and humanitarian Norman Cousins when he became an adjunct professor at UCLA. She authored the 1995 Glendale Chamber of Commerce book, “Glendale: Jewel City of the Verdugos.” Her latest accomplishment is completing a novel that she hopes to see published.
Upon her marriage, she moved to Glendale where she is active with the Northwest Glendale Homeowners Association as a board member and associate editor of the quarterly newsletter. She previously was on the board of the Friends of the Glendale Public Library.
A native Californian, Marian Dodge has lived in Los Feliz with her husband since 1968. She taught English and coordinated the English-as-a-Second Language program at John Marshall High School. She has a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and a Masters from Cal State LA.
Marian is past President of the Los Feliz Improvement Association and co-chair of the History Committee. She is Past-President and Chairman of the Hillside Federation, an organization of 46 homeowner associations spanning the Santa Monica Mountains whose mission is to preserve the quality of life in the hillsides, the natural topography and open space. She is also one of the founders of Friends of Griffith Park.
Marian’s love of the outdoors came from growing up on a farm where you could climb trees and build forts. She enjoyed many family camping trips and summer camps.
She was named former Assemblymember Mike Feuer’s Woman of the Year in 2012 for her efforts to preserve open space. Marian served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa. She was a volunteer hostess at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She is active in a variety of historic preservation groups. She enjoys hiking, cooking, and modern architecture.
As a transplant from New York City, Anna moved to Beachwood Canyon in 2002 and immediately fell in love with her next door neighbor, Griffith Park. She joined with community activists to protect hikers’ access to its trailheads as well as initiated city actions such as installing bins in littered areas and trash clean-ups within restricted DWP lands.
Anna enjoys learning about the rich history of the park and exploring its infinite trails on Tuesday nights with the Sierra Club hikes.
Sarah Napier is a lifelong educator. She has been a teacher, counselor, Special Education local plan administrator for Glendale, Burbank, and La Canada, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Cal State Northridge, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California. She also served as a Legislative Advocate for the California Retired Teachers Association.
When Sarah retired she became active in the community. She served on the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council where she chaired the Education Committee. She won a city beautification grant, and developed and managed the Big M project for John Marshall High School. Everyone who drives by the school enjoys the beautiful tile mural on the corner. She also served on the neighborhood council’s Parks, Rivers, and Open Space Committee where she worked tirelessly to protect Griffith Park from commercialization.
Sarah is a charter member of Friends of Griffith Park Board of Directors. She wants Griffith Park to remain an urban wilderness with access by all Los Angeles residents. The park belongs to all of us. No one has the right to give any part of it away.
On the weekends you’ll see Sarah in cardinal and gold rooting for USC.
Growing up in Africa and then living in cities with iconic parks, he cultivated an appreciation of green spaces like Griffith. He and his wife, a native-Angeleno with some fond memories of childhood trips to the Park, enjoy going for long hikes and love having such an amazing and well protected resource so close to their home in Los Feliz.
Before joining the Board, Alex and his brother Ian spent a year regularly volunteering directly with the Parks Department in Fern Dell. This was an eye-opening experience, illustrating the scope of work to be done as well as giving them a fuller understanding of the variety and depth of communities that utilize and rely on the park.
Volunteer days are one of his favorite things about FOGP. Whether it’s mulching, weeding, or planting saplings, it’s a great opportunity to get your hands dirty and feel like you’re making a positive impact on the park for yourself and others.
She has an MA in US History from UCLA. She lives in Beachwood Canyon.
She and her husband have backpacked in wilderness areas in the West (including the John Muir Trail) and hiked the GR5 long distance trail for 900 miles in France. While backpacking in the Gates of the Arctic National Park, she saw firsthand the fragile nature of the Arctic. She happened to be in Alaska during the Exxon Valdez disaster which served to amplify her concern for the environment.
She was active in the local homeowners’ organization (HHA) as President and Board Member from 2001 to 2007. She served on the Griffith Park Advisory Board for over 2 years. When the City closed the long-standing access to Griffith Park from Beachwood, she and another local volunteer created the plan for an Alternate Access Trail into the Park and are hopeful that access will soon be reinstated for residents and Angelenos alike.
She enjoys playing golf in the Park, paints landscapes from her travels, works with yarn and fabric and takes walks with husband Tony and their Lhasa Apso Trotsky.
Daniel S. Cooper
Daniel S. Cooper is principal investigator and scientific advisor for Friends of Griffith Park. Dan grew up in Pasadena with a passion for birds and nature. His academic credentials include: Harvard University, U.C. Riverside (MS), and UCLA Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (PhD). He is president of Cooper Ecological Monitoring.
As one of California’s leading ornithologists, Dan published Important Bird Areas of California and has a list of scientific publications to his credit. He has served several functions for California Audubon, including Director of Bird Conservation.
Beginning in late 2006, Dan became the lead ecologist conducting surveys under the umbrella Griffith Park Natural History Survey. After the 2007 park fire, Dan advised the Department of Recreation and Parks on fire recovery and was commissioned to write the Griffith Park Wildlife Management Plan. Highlights of his professional contributions to Griffith Park science include the Griffith Park Rare Plant Survey and the continuing Griffith Park Raptor Survey, both highly successful endeavors underwritten by FoGP.
Mike Eberts is a professor of Mass Communications at Glendale Community College, a title he’s held since 1987, and author of the 1996 book Griffith Park: A Centennial History, chronicling the complex story of Griffith Park. Eberts details the park from its picturesque days as Rancho Los Feliz through Colonel Griffith J. Griffith’s gift to the City of Los Angeles in 1936 and its subsequent modern-day history. Today, the book is still a must-read for those curious about the Park’s early years as well as a testimony to those looking to fashion its future.
Eberts graduated from Cal State University Los Angeles and holds a Ph.D in Political Science from USC. A member of the Griffith J. Griffith Trust, Eberts currently lives in Los Feliz and hikes in the Park daily.
Jorge Ochoa discovered Griffith Park through his employment with the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. The 2007 fire in Griffith Park gave Jorge the opportunity to cooperate on the Wildlife Management Plan, while monitoring the recovery of flora. He also was a contributor to the FoGP-sponsored Rare Plant Survey. His interest in plants extends to their interactions and synergies with wildlife.
Jorge left the Department of Recreation and Parks in 2009 to pursue teaching at Long Beach City College where he currently serves as Professor of Horticulture. He continues to advise FoGP on Fern Dell revitalization and has nurtured ferns for future restoration. Jorge also remains involved with Griffith Park through leading hikes, seminars and his ongoing documentation of the vegetation of the park. He often brings students along when leading flora hikes for us in Griffith Park.
Beth Pratt is a lifelong advocate for wildlife, and worked in environmental leadership roles for over 25 years, and in two of the country’s largest national parks: Yosemite and Yellowstone. As the California Regional Executive Director for the National Wildlife Federation, Beth leads the #SaveLACougars campaign to build the largest wildlife crossing in the world in the Los Angeles area to help save a population of mountain lions from extinction.
Beth’s conservation work has been featured by The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC World Service, CBS This Morning, The Los Angeles Times, Men’s Journal, and NPR. Her books include: I Heart Wildlife: A Guided Activity Journal for Connecting With the Wild World and When Mountain Lions are Neighbors. Beth spends much of her time in LA, but makes her home outside of Yosemite with her five dogs, one cat, and other wildlife that frequent her backyard.
Valerie Vanaman is a graduate of the Ohio State University College of Law who has spent her entire professional career engaged in public interest type law. For many years she worked in legal services and was for a time the Executive Director of what was then the Legal Aid Foundation of Long Beach. She spent some time working with the Children’s Defense Fund office that was then located in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the mid-seventies and became involved in working with children with special needs. Upon returning to California, she joined the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and then founded Newman.Aaronson. Vanaman, the first law firm specializing in representing students in education matters. In January 2021 the firm changed its name to Vanaman German LLP and continues its aggressive advocacy on behalf of students.
Along the way, Ms. Vanaman served as a member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. Her father was a dedicated conservationist and she grew up in Ohio in and around one of the largest and best maintained public parks, Mill Creek Park. Her love of parks remains in tack and she was an active member of the Master Plan Working Group organized in the first part of this Century to discuss and help develop a master plan for Griffith Park. She is also an active supporter of the Yosemite Conservancy.
George was co-founder of the Natural History Surveys in Griffith Park long before Friends of Griffith Park was formed. FoGP took over the responsibility and sponsorship of the surveys on animals and plants which continue to document the rich flora and fauna of the Park. When Grace was creating the original FoGP site, he did so because “you can’t tell what you have lost unless you know what you had.” During the time of the Griffith Park Master Plan Working Group, Grace represented the Franklin Hills Residents Association, and it was these meetings which ultimately led to the creation of a “Vision for Griffith Park.” As one of the founding members of Friends of Griffith Park, George continues to keep a long list of Griffith Park supporters apprised of what’s happening in the park while still maintaining a coyote sighting survey online.
Another founding member of Friends of Griffith Park, Carol helped establish this organization and served as its first secretary. She participated in data gathering and planning with the National Park Service for the Anza Trail. She attended the Griffith Park Master Plan Working Group meetings which ultimately got us a “Vision for Griffith Park.” As a liaison with the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter, Carol was instrumental in getting the Sierra Club’s invaluable support in promoting our vision. She continues to write Sierra Club articles in the Southern Sierran that advocate for the preservation of Griffith Park.
A native of Mexico, Felix lived in San Antonio Texas for a while before moving to Los Angeles in 1957; after he married, Felix would often take his family of four children and wife into Griffith Park for picnics, rides on the Merry-go-round or visits to the Observatory. But it was much later when Felix was introduced to the trails and back country wilderness of the Park. He says he was “grandfathered” into Friends of Griffith Park because of his enthusiasm and knowledge of the terrain and history of the area.
As a Hike Leader for Sierra Club’s ICO for 10 years (and supported by FoGP), Felix shared his love of the hiking and the land with thousands of young students, many who were experiencing for the first time this pocket of natural greenery and wildlife.
Felix worked as an electrician for the Department of Water and Power for seven years and then for the Department of Public Works for 35. Today, he continues to explore Griffith Park, assist his family with his electrical knowledge and read one of his many history books.
Al Moggia was a member of the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter and past Chair of the Chapter’s Central Group. Among the important environmental issues for the Central Group are protecting urban parks from over development, keeping special interests from having park grounds ceded over to them for their own use, and protecting the natural environment of parks.
Al is founding member of Friends of Griffith Park. He has always been a staunch supporter of commercial-free parks. He is always deceptively quiet until a situation occurs that requires his voice. One classic Al moment occurred when the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners was considering covering picnic tables, fences, and garbage cans in Griffith Park with advertising for a Yogi Bear cartoon. Al quietly but steadfastly exposed the scheme for what it was and forced the Board to abandon the project.
As a member of the Sierra’s Club Griffith Park Section, Al helped to organize native plant and wildflower hikes in Griffith Park. He served on the Griffith Park Section’s management committee as an outings leader. He admired Griffith Park’s unique landscape with its native plants and diverse animal life, great views of the city below, and the distant mountains surrounding the city.
As a longtime park advocate, Bernadette chaired the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council’s (GGPNC) Parks, River and Open Space Committee (PROS) which focused people’s attention on the need for preservation. One of the greatest achievements occurred when the PROS committee launched a highly successful petition drive against the Melendrez Master Plan. This plan would have created further development and commercialization within the Park, and defeat of this plan eventually led to the Griffith Park Master Plan Working Group.
In 2010 Bernadette proposed the formation of an organization in support of Griffith Park to a small group of park enthusiasts. A founding member, she served as First Vice President of FoGP and helped get the organization off to a good start. She designed and provided much of the content for FoGP’s professional and informative newsletters. She initiated a partnership with the National Park Service to enhance the Anza Trail project. She served on the ad hoc Fern Dell Committee for its rehabilitation project and prepared the script still used by FoGP for Fern Dell tours.
Another PROS Committee member, Chuck attended all Griffith Park Master Plan Working Group meetings, making important and relevant comments. He spent countless hours gathering signatures to stop the Melendrez Draft Master Plan, which would have further commercialized the Park. He also garnered support for Historic-Cultural Monument designation for the entirety of Griffith Park. The Soters hosted the meeting where the decision was made to create a support group for the Park. Both Soters worked tirelessly for the fledgling organization, creating flyers and newsletters that effectively raised awareness for FoGP, and helped the organization grow to a membership of 500 in he first year.
Richard brought a new perspective to the board when he joined in 2013. A Renaissance man, he noticed small details, and meticulously researched and shared them. His curiosity created fascinating articles in FoGP newsletters over the years with topics like; tire weights in the Los Angeles River, faux bois railings and red limestone blocks in Fern Dell, earthquake fault lines, women’s fashionable hats and the loss of fancy plumed birds leading to passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918. Stanley led numerous guided tours in Fern Dell and over the years was one of FoGP’s speakers at the Los Feliz Library Lecture Series where he entertained attendees with stories of faux bois and the early inhabitants of the Los Feliz area.