Congrats, County Champions!

In celebration of July as National Parks and Recreation Month, and in the spirit of environmental stewardship and promoting healthy active lifestyles, we hosted our annual Parks and Recreation Champion Awards banquet on July 11, 2018 at Heritage County Park. 

We’re proud to celebrate the distinguished finalists and winner of the 2018 Parks and Recreation Champion Awards program. The event recognizes volunteers for their work in park education, service and stewardship. Nominated by their peers, honorees have made a noticeable, lasting impacts on the people and communities they serve, enhancing the quality of life in San Diego.

This year’s esteemed winner is John Allen, whose efforts to improve habitat awareness, environmental restoration and recreation have culminated in more than 30 years of park service. Six everyday heroes were also recognized as champions: Aleksei Naumov, Chris Heiserman, Flo Livers, John Degenfelder, Paul Zawilenski, and Travis Lindsey.

“The 2018 champion, and all of the distinguished finalists this year, are leaders and role models. They are action-oriented, bringing positive change to the world around them and inspiring a whole new generation of park ambassadors,” said Director of DPR Brian Albright.

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About the honorees:

John Allen (WINNER/CHAMPION): Driven to improve habitat awareness, restoration and recreation in parks, John Allen has been a park ambassador for more than 30 years. Most recently, he’s joined the volunteer force of the San Diego River Park Foundation – seeking sustainable fixes for riparian and headwater spaces. He strives every day to keep parks clean, healthy and accessible.

Aleksei Naumov (CHAMPION HONOREE): Aleksei Naumov is an action-oriented community leader in the Oak Park neighborhood and a stalwart ambassador for Chollas Lake Park. As president of the Oak Park Community Council he’s built a grassroots support network to help clean up, revitalize and beautify parks. Other efforts focus on safety and bringing healthy food to local markets.

Chris Heiserman (CHAMPION HONOREE): For 10 years, Chris Heiserman has served as President of the Dictionary Hill Open Space Advocates. Once the locale of a proposed housing development, Heiserman sought to preserve Dictionary Hill as a recreation destination. His persistence and ability to work across groups led to the acquisition of the land for trails and to protect unique plant and animal species.

Flo Livers (CHAMPION HONOREE): With over 32 years of service to the City of Oceanside Senior Center, Flo Livers has helped countless at-risk, ill and injured residents find comfort, community and hope. Her volunteer efforts, from knitting quilts and pajamas to managing events – buoyed by her passion for swimming and golfing – have inspired many to lead healthy, active lives.

John Degenfelder (CHAMPION HONOREE): John Degenfelder has been championing trails since the 1980s when he joined the Ramona Planning Group, leading to the start of the Ramona Trails Association and the region’s first trails plan in 1989. He’s volunteered with DPR, the San Dieguito River Conservancy and Sheriff Mounted Patrol, as well as, the California Trails and Greenways Foundation.

Paul Zawilenski (CHAMPION HONOREE): As chair of both the Ramona Community Foundation and Ramona Chamber Economic Development Committee and Governmental Affairs, Paul Zawilenski is committed to building community, boosting philanthropic growth and enhancing recreation opportunities. Recently, he launched the Ramona Hiking Challenge to highlight lesser-known hiking destinations.

Travis Lindsay (CHAMPION HONOREE): For 11 years, Travis Lindsay has led positive change through the City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Volunteer Range Program. As Board Vice-Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission and member of the City of San Marcos Trails Advisory Committee, his smart and steadfast efforts have improved service, safety and sustainability at events citywide.


The 2018 panel of judges included Barbara Wallach of the San Elijo Lagoon Conversancy and past recipient of the Parks and Recreation Champion Award, Conny Jamison and Everette Au of the San Diego Foundation, Elizabeth Bendrick of REI, as well as Harrold Hambrice of the San Diego County Parks Society.

HUGE “thank you” to our sponsors:

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