Indulging a passion for open space

When Jeff Weinstein sat down to talk in his Deukmejian Wilderness Park office, he was wearing worn jeans and boots. He had worked downtown the previous day in a sport coat and tie.

“My job is really a perfect blend,” he said.

As the Trails and Open Spaces Specialist for the city of Glendale, Weinstein, 54, has massive ground to cover with the city’s 5,000 acres of open space. His drive is to realize the potential of that space, protect it, and share it with others.

He has approximately 25 years of experience in trails and open spaces, almost five years of them with Glendale.

He has seen the purpose of trails and open spaces shift from a space in which to walk the dog or take a hike to using the space for alternate transportation modes such as bike paths or pedestrian walkways. Open space also provides a place in which people can take spiritual refuge.

One project Weinstein is working on involves narrowing down a handful of spaces the city could convert into overnight campgrounds. He dreams of the day that trails in Glendale will connect to trails in Pasadena, La Cañada and Burbank. He’d like to see the trails used by walkers, runners, mountain bikers and equestrians alike.

This summer, he’ll begin two trail projects. The “Mountain Do” trail will wind around the soccer field at the Glendale Sports Complex. The “Catalina Verdugo” trail will connect to the fire roads on the ridgeline of the Verdugos. Meanwhile, he is leading the restoration work required at Deukmejian in the wake of the Station fire.

Weinstein grew up in North Hollywood and hiked the Sierras each summer as a Boy Scout, 50 miles at a time. He believes his coming of age in the 1970s influenced him to study environmental science at UCLA.

“You know, the whole environmental movement,” he said. “I wanted to save the Earth. I really loved what I was learning and I wanted to apply it.”

After attending graduate school at the University of California at Riverside, he landed an internship with Riverside County’s parks department, which led to a paying job.

Still a resident of Riverside, he raised his three children there with his wife, Yvonne.

Experience has convinced him that Glendale is an honorable city for spending millions of dollars preserving open spaces for habitat and education.

“I really feel like we’re leaving a legacy for the future of what we’re creating and preserving,” he said. “Especially with the kids who haven’t been exposed to it — they’re going to be our future leaders. They’re going to remember that. When something comes up for the vote, they’re going to say, ‘We need to preserve that.’“

Weinstein’s quest to find ways to improve parks is unrelenting, said Dottie Sharkey, president of the Glendale Parks and Open Space Foundation.

“He has a passion for it,” she said. “That’s what I see. He has follow-through. And his love for nature — it’s all there.”

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