The Loma Prietan - July/August 2009


Mary Hobbs — Passionate Advocate for the Outdoors

by Julia Bott

Mary Hobbs demonstrates her exuberance and love of the outdoors on a trip to Switzerland. Photo: Anne Steinle
Mary Hobbs demonstrates her exuberance and love of the outdoors on a trip to Switzerland. Photo: Anne Steinle

Everyone loves the coast. Thankfully, Mary Hobbs really loved the coast. In fact she loved the whole outdoors. She loved it enough to be the Chapter's conservation chair in 1983 and the Chapter's chair in 1984.

"Mary's passion for the outdoors was incredible," says Tim Duff, who served with Mary as co-chair of the Chapter's Coastside Issues Committee from 1985 to the mid-1990s.

Always one to go the extra mile, she made her home available for organizing meetings, candidate interviews, celebratory parties and storage of campaign materials on an ongoing basis and was an energetic, committed advocate for the community and the environment.

Mary's legacy goes beyond conservation victories. Those who worked with her remember her can-do attitude and what fellow activist Lennie Roberts describes as "infectious optimism." "Mary believed in environmental values, but also in the ability of humans to have a positive effect," says Martha Turner, a former Chapter Conservation Coordinator.

Mary's first efforts to protect the coast started like many — she worked on Proposition 20, the "Save the Coast" initiative, in 1972. She was passionate about protecting coastal access. In addition to working on the many small but cumulatively important issues that took up the attention of the Coastside Issues Committee, Mary was also active in various local campaigns to protect the San Mateo County Coast, including Yes on Measure A to require voter approval for changes to the local coastal plan, No on Measure D to stop a major development on agricultural lands south of Half Moon Bay, Yes on Measure T to build the tunnel at Devil's Slide on Highway 1, and Yes on Measure F to expand the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District to the coast.

A strong supporter of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, she was involved in the 2002 master planning process.

In November of 1997 Mary was elected to the Midcoast Community Council and served for two years until health concerns forced her to resign. She served as San Mateo County Supervisor Ruben Barrales's liaison on coastal and environmental issues until he left the Board in 2000.

Before moving to the coast, Mary lived in Redwood City, where she was involved in the campaigns to save Bair Island and Edgewood Park.

Mary was an ardent backpacker for 25 years. There are few areas in the Sierra that she and her husband, Peter, did not explore, and she loved the Trinity Alps. Later in life, after her cancer had metastasized, Mary backpacked some of the most demanding trails in the world.

Looking at her photo albums was almost as good as being there yourself. But hearing her stories was even more exciting. She and Peter managed to get themselves into — and out of — more than one dicey situation.

Mary also loved her horses, her kitties Mr. Edward and Pippin, and her flower garden. In addition to being an avid hiker and diver, she volunteered as an usher with the opera and recently took a water color painting course.

One-time Chapter Conservation Coordinator Linda Barr sums it up with, "Mary's strength, determination, and positive attitude in fighting cancer for years and her devotion to her husband Peter, her family, and her friends are an inspiration to all who knew her."

Mary passed away at her home in Moss Beach on May 20. In addition to Peter, she is survived by a sister, three brothers, and many other family members and friends. Memorial donations may be made to the Sempervirens Fund or to the Square Peg Foundation of Half Moon Bay.

Chapter member Julia Bott was Chapter Director from 1993 to 1998. She currently chairs Sierra Club California's Legislative Committee.

April Vargas, a Chapter member and a board member of Committee for Green Foothills, contributed to this article.