Jean Robertson

The EBCNPS Conservation Committee is happy to introduce our new Conservation Chair, Jean Robertson! Please find a brief bio for Jean below. We are all looking forward to working with Jean to achieve the conservation goals of our chapter area.

Jean Robertson:

I was born in Jamshedpur, India, and I came to the Bay Area as an infant.  I grew up in Piedmont (and in Australia as a teen), and have lived in various spots in the East Bay as well as in remoter parts of Northern California.  For the past 19 years, I’ve made my home in Oakland, near the Emeryville border.

I feel fortunate to live in this vibrant, creative and diverse Bay Area.  We are rich in parks, open space and many wonderful and unusual eco systems, plant communities, and natural wonders. Also, we are hugely challenged with how to steward these places appropriately.  As a more recent member of our conservation committee and your new chair, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with a dedicated and skilled group of individuals, in the form of CNPS, East Bay.  I am happy to be able to plug into this excellent group and add my energies to it.

Some of my earliest volunteer work was as a teenager exploring marine biology at Point Reyes, while also building picnic tables, and clearing trails for the national seashore. Also in my teens I participated in a stream bank restoration project behind my high school.  In more recent years as an adult, I have been involved with community gardens in my neighborhood, in both Oakland and Emeryville working as coordinator, and as a  member of the board of directors. Also, I helped create, with a group of neighbors, and with the City of Oakland, a block long native plant garden on the site of a former trashy median strip.  I worked successfully on the ‘Doyle St Greenway’ project in Emeryville, for a number of years, showing up at council meetings, advocating for a linear park to be created where there were only railroad tracks embedded in a wide stretch of urban asphalt.   They said at the time that that street was destined to be a major thoroughfare for vehicular traffic, but with the persistent advocacy of neighborhood groups and individuals, we now have a linear park, that is a keystone of treasured open space in this deeply densified urban environment.

My profession is landscape contracting, with a focus on custom residential garden projects.  I’ve been doing this work for about 28 years now.  My speciality is with infrastructure:  particularly irrigation, but also with lighting, water features, and anything technical.    A special area of interest is working with native plants and working on and observing the progress of restoration projects and land management  projects of various scales.

I got my professional training mostly on the job, supplemented with classes at the Merritt College Horticulture Department and with seminars and field trips over the years.  In the early days of working as a landscape laborer, digging out stumps and digging ditches, I was mentored by and eventually worked side by side with an excellent and talented landscape designer.  Our design/build partnership lasted for 10 years and we created many interesting and cutting edge gardens, working with native plants whenever we could, back when ‘natives’ were not a trend.  Nowadays I continue to enjoy collaborations with designers, and others, on landscape projects.

I have had the opportunity to work in many different microclimates and corners of the Bay Area.  I love my work and I very much enjoy working outside, being physical and solving problems.

One of the gifts I can bring to the job of Conservation Committee Chair is a love for and a delight in our Bay Area open spaces and wild places. I offer energy, open minded-ness and a willingness to do what I can to advocate for the protection and enhancement of these special as well as common places.  The main reason why I joined the conservation committee is that I decided it was time to work on a more regional (rather than neighborhood) scale on behalf of the non-human aspect of nature and the green world.  One of my favorite and most restorative things to do is to go for a long ramble in nature.  I hope that my work on the conservation committee will contribute to the protection and right stewardship of our precious places, and I am glad to roll up my sleeves and dig in.