Community recalls a real trailblazer – Sept. 29 event will celebrate the work of late Linda Palmer

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Linda Palmer of Calabasas, a longtime advocate for the Santa Monica Mountains, died from cancer June 22 at the age of 80.

Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, September 12, 2013

Palmer’s many contributions to the protection and management of the local mountains will be remembered at a celebration on Sept. 29 at the Santa Monica Mountains park service visitor center at King Gillette Ranch, 26800 Mulholland Hwy., near Calabasas.

Friend and fellow equestrian Ruth Gerson said Palmer demonstrated her loyalty to the mountain community with more than 40 years of work with Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the national and state park systems—mostly as a volunteer.

“She has made many, many contributions to ensure that trails are designed, built and maintained for the public’s benefit,” Gerson said.

Palmer helped design and promote Los Angeles County’s Trail Plan for the Santa Monica Mountains, and designed and helped build the Upper Stunt High Trail.

She also served on the SMMC’s Advisory Committee, and coordinated the feasibility study for the L.A. County section of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historical Trail.

“Linda’s passion for horses was equal to her passion about trails,” Gerson said. “One of her horses, Midas, was a Palomino Tennessee Walker. She taught him many tricks, including rearing on command. Another horse was Baraka, an Arabian with whom she did endurance riding and trail riding.”

An accomplished rider, Palmer recorded the fastest time ever for the Malibu Endurance Ride, covering 50 miles in five hours, 43 minutes.

“Linda was passionate about protecting trails and ensuring their legacy for the future,” Gerson said.

Don Wallace was Palmer’s neighbor in the unincorporated area of Calabasas near Stunt Road since 1973.

“Together with other neighbors, we formed the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council,” Wallace said. “She was president for 14 years, and then she insisted that somebody else take over.”

Wallace said Palmer had a way of winning over politicians who were inclined to approve development in sensitive mountain areas instead of protecting them.

“She was amazing at establishing relationships with local political leaders who had jurisdiction over trail issues,” Wallace said. “Much to our chagrin, she worked with developers if it was going to benefit the trail system. She had a way of depersonalizing the feelings between environmentalists and developers. She was able to work with developers in trails in a way that I had never seen before.”

Wallace said Palmer became the official “voice” of Los Angeles County and the Coastal Commission.

HAPPY TRAILS—The opening of the Backbone Trail from Kanan Road West was a time for celebration. Pictured from left is Linda Palmer, Dave Gackenback of the National Park Service, and Ruth Kilday, Mountains Conservancy Foundation board member. Palmer died June 22.

Ruth Taylor Kilday, board member of the Mountains Conservancy Foundation and former director of Adamson House in Malibu, said she and Palmer represented the Santa Monica Trails Council, and researched and discovered the original route of the Anza expedition across today’s L.A. and Ventura counties.Georgia Farinella was also Palmer’s neighbor. She called her friend a “dear soul” whose presence she will miss.

“She generously tutored me on the ways of trail preservation in the Santa Monica Mountains,” Farinella said. “Her devotion and spirit inspired me to pay it forward and take up the cause to protect trails.”

Dash Stolarz, public affairs officer of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, lauded Palmer for her work with the Santa Monica Mountains Planning Commission, the forerunner of the SMMC.

“Everything about her was real, elegant and participatory,” Stolarz said. “She showed up at all the volunteer events. She did everything to make the mountains available to everyone. People will enjoy the mountains for years to come because of her work.”

Joe Edmiston, executive director of the SMMC, met Palmer in 1977.

“(Linda) was a great trail advocate and was very aggressive in pursuing equestrian rights,” Edmiston said.

He said that Palmer insisted he accompany her on a ride to scope out a new trail in the Thousand Oaks area.

“There were a number of equestrians there to see if it could work,” Edmiston said. “I was there but not as an equestrian. She got off her horse and urged me to ride. I’m not much of a horse person. (The mountain) was steep.  She said, ‘lean back, lean back.’ I thought I’d fall.”

Edmiston never developed a fondness for the saddle, but the ride with Palmer offered him a clear perspective on why the mountains of  Thousand Oaks required a trail.

“(Linda) will definitely be missed,” he said.

Palmer is survived by her husband, Bob, two sons, Michael and Jon Hutchings, three stepchildren, and six grandchildren.

To attend Palmer’s memorial, RSVP to the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council at or call (818) 222-4531.


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