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Ex-Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez Hired as Monterey County Parks Fixer

‘Parks guy’ in charge of leading reorganization and reform of department overseeing county’s 8 parks

Former Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez points to collaboration as key in his new position with the Monterey County Parks Department. “For the long haul, this has to be a team effort,” he says.
Former Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez points to collaboration as key in his new position with the Monterey County Parks Department. “For the long haul, this has to be a team effort,” he says. (Nic Coury / Monterey County Weekly photo)

[Noozhawk’s note: This story is republished with permission from the Monterey County Weekly.]

On the surface, it may appear the Monterey County Parks Department is in disarray, but behind the scenes, a new order is shaping up.

After former county parks director Mark Mariscal left his position in July — after serving in the role only 17 months — the department was absorbed into the county’s Resource Management Agency on an interim basis.

On Dec. 1, the county Parks Commission voted to recommend making that change permanent, and the Board of Supervisors later approved the integration.

If approved by the supervisors, the change will solidify many added efficiencies to what has become a chronically understaffed, underfunded department.

A recent hire has also helped: After Mariscal left, RMA director Carl Holm, who is overseeing county parks, brought on Cam Sanchez — Santa Barbara’s longtime police chief who retired in 2016 — to get the de facto department back on track. His official title is county parks executive management specialist.

“I’m not much for titles,” Sanchez said. “I just consider myself a parks guy.”

Sanchez restarted the momentum to implement the 2015 county parks strategic plan, an effort that involves getting the ball rolling to develop specific plans for each of the county’s eight parks. The first meeting to that end was Dec. 6, and Sanchez says King City’s San Lorenzo Park is first on the list.

Among the changes already in motion: getting bilingual signage in San Lorenzo Park’s agricultural museum.

After a career as a law enforcement officer, Sanchez has also been working with rangers to help stop the ongoing illegal trail-building by mountain bikers in Toro Park in Salinas.

“Illegal trails are something we take very seriously,” Sanchez said. “It shouldn’t be happening.”

— David Schmalz is a staff writer for the Monterey County Weekly.

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