Parks and Rec

Meet the 2017 Parks and Recreation Champions

San Diego County’s Parks and Recreation inducted a new class of distinguished volunteers to its Parks and Recreation Champions Hall of Fame at Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve last week. The annual award program recognizes the best of the best in volunteerism at parks and recreational programs across the county.

Champions were recognized for their significant impact in environmental stewardship, community service and healthy, active lifestyles.

The 2017 Champion is volunteer Barbara Wallach, with Sheila Alston, Patty Morton, Jennifer Palkovic and Mike Thacker named as finalists.

Barbara Wallach has led thousands of students through the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy’s Our Living Watershed program. Wallach also leads interpretation workshops, mentors new naturalists, and writes and edits the Conservancy’s published field books. In addition, she helps develop interactive exhibits for kids and cool attractions along the trail.

Sheila Alston is a leader devoted to raising awareness about issues affecting seniors in San Diego. Based in North County, Alston works closely with the City of Oceanside and the El Corazon Senior Center. She is a steadfast volunteer dedicated to community service who develops and runs events to benefit adults aged 55 and older.

Patty Morton has been an active leader in the San Marcos equestrian community for more than 20 years, serving in leadership positions like board chair for the Twin Oaks Valley Equestrian Association. Morton engages with local representatives, developers and business owners to create partnerships and foster fundraising opportunities.

Jennifer Palkovic founded Sienna’s PlayGarden Project to renovate the playground at Rolling Hills Neighborhood Park in Black Mountain Ranch. Sienna’s PlayGarden Project was inspired by her daughter. Palkovic is also a member of the Rancho Penasquitos Recreation Council, and she works closely with the City of San Diego and other organizations to revitalize and enhance local parks.

Mike Thacker has been an interpretive hike leader for the San Dieguito River Park and San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy since 1994. Every trek includes trail information along with useful, interesting facts about local plants, animals, fire ecology and history. He knows the terrain like the back of his hand and has used that knowledge to design memorable trail expe

Michelle Mowad is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact