Matt Gerhart

Name: Matt Gerhart
Position/Occupation: Program Manager, San Francisco Bay Area with the State Coastal Conservancy
June 2018

Matt has been working for the Coastal Conservancy since 2007 when he moved back to the Bay Area after three years working for the Mendocino Land Trust on the North Coast. Initially, he worked on projects in Mendocino and Sonoma then moved on to become Deputy Manager of the Bay Area program in 2010. In that role he knit together the climate, restoration, conservation and access goals of the Conservancy through partnership-based initiatives like the Bay Area Open Space Council, Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, and Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals.

In 2015, he advanced on to the role of Bay Area Program Manager, where he now oversees the Conservancy’s wide range of land protection, restoration, access and climate adaptation projects, as well as its new work with the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority.

A typical day in Matt’s life involves a boatload of meetings, emails and conversations with his dedicated staff and partners from around the region, all in service of keeping over 150 active projects moving forward while responsibly stewarding tens of millions of public dollars each year. Perceptively, his two young daughters call his work “ticka-ticka blah blah” (said while making keyboard and telephone motions with hands). He does, however, get the occasional chance to hunt out the spectacular and challenged natural spaces of the bay area, which he has called home for over 20 years. That might include a boat tour up a quiet tidal slough, hikes to remote valleys of the Blue-Ridge Berryessa, biking urbanized shorelines in the Oakland estuary, or sizing up new ridge trail opportunities in the hills.

Having grown up in Texas and lived in both Colorado and on the East Coast, Matt really appreciates how urban Californians value their natural heritage, as well as their desire to enjoy and steward the outdoors. He found himself entranced by the dynamic and engaging mix of urban and natural spaces here in the Bay Area and made urban-area land conservation the focus of his graduate work in Geography – imagining one day being involved in just the type of work he gets to do at the Conservancy now.

In fact, Matt says “The highlight of my job is engaging with the wide range of people around me. Partnerships like the JV are filled with people who are unflinchingly committed to protecting, stewarding and promoting the precious resources they are privileged to enjoy.” And Matt senses that “each person touched by the work of enhancing nature’s bounty, putting a child in touch with their first taste of the outdoors, or helping tell the tales of wild places in the city feels a connection to a bigger we” – something he believes must be felt if we are going to move society forward. It’s the “little big stuff” that keeps Matt going, whether it be negotiating an agreement to turn a contaminated site over for public use, devising strategies to ensure critical wildlands will never be developed, or funding community programs that expose new constituencies to the wonders of their shoreline.

Nothing speaks more to his desire to leave things a little bit better than Matt’s family – his wife Laura, a dedicated educator in Oakland’s public school system, and two daughters Eva (6) and Lucy (2). Always questioning the way the world works – and the ways it doesn’t – their perspective keeps each day’s challenge fresh. Biking, sailing, soccer, hiking, and mountaineering are all once and future pastimes Matt finds renewal in and lives for. He draws on the memory of his parents – a brilliant conversationalist dad from dusty west Texas and a homesteader-stock mom who grew up poking around Colorado’s wilderness lakes – to remind him how little one’s time here matters if you don’t make something of it. And as they say round those parts, relevant for the busy life of the Conservancy and the Bay Area, “better make it quick.”