Redwood Parks Conservancy’s Staff
Cathy Bonser, Executive Director
Cathy joined the then Redwood Parks Association in 2011 as the second Executive Director of the then-newly merged association. She now is in charge of the newly named and growing Redwood Parks Conservancy. A fifth-generation California girl, she brings the experience gained from 34 years of service in the federal government, followed by working with the nonprofit healthcare community, and found her calling for this new position while dedicating her time to volunteering on the Board of Directors for Redwood Park Association. She works with our public land managers, directs the organization to reach goals established with the Board of Directors, and supervises the staff. Cathy and her husband Gordon have a bouncing Bichon named Bongo, grown children and grandchildren, eager to learn more about the natural world surrounding us and the true meaning of stewardship.
Denise E. Wood, Chief of Operations
As a young teen, Denise Wood fell in love with the Redwoods during a family 25 State summer long camping trip. The Pacific Northwest, especially Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, immediately felt like home. It took her until 1998 to make her dream of living near the Redwoods a reality. Before Denise’s arrival in her favorite part of the world, she secured a park aide position at Prairie Creek and soon after began working as a substitute teacher and sometimes horse trainer during the park’s “off season”.
Working full time for the parks was always a dream. In 2002, the elusive position came in the guise of Assistant Directorship of the North Coast Redwood Interpretive Association (NCRIA). She had worked either for Prairie Creek or NCRIA during the interim of 1998-2002 but this was the first time she could work in the parks full-time.
In 2005, Denise continued with the NCRIA, but was given more responsibility as The Chief of Operations for the organization. In 2011 the NCRIA and RPA merged and created Redwood Parks Association, now Redwood Parks Conservancy. As the new RPA’s Chief of Operations, the responsibilities and expectations changed. Living near the redwoods was a lifetime goal for Denise. She now lives within a 10 minute drive to Prairie Creek, Stone, Dry, and Big Lagoons, and many great National State Park’s hikes.
Debi White, Visitor Centers Manager
Debi joined Redwood Parks Association, now Redwood Parks Conservancy, in 2011 and brought over 20 years experience in the world of non-profits, including 11 years as director of Children's Miracle Network and five years as district director of Muscular Dystrophy Association, both in Oregon. She fell in love with the redwoods during a Portland marathon training run in 2005 at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, but she never imagined she would actually live and work in the area one day. Debi manages six visitor centers and oversees fundraising activities for the benefit of Redwood National & State Parks including Candlelight Walk, and the Prairie Creek Redwoods Half Marathon & 5k. When she's not at work, Debi spends her time walking her dog, working out, gardening and cooking.
Steve Simmons, Administrative Support & Technology
Steve was working with the North Coast Redwood Interpretive Association for five years and joined Redwood Parks Association, now Redwood Parks Conservancy, when the two organizations merged in 2011. A native Californian, he was an Air Force brat and moved around the country a bit, as well as a summer in Okinawa.
Steve brings a lot of real world experience to RPC, having spent many years as an automotive mechanic, construction worker, and serving in the U.S. Army. After many years of heavy labor, he had to find a new path that would allow him to work without beating his body up any further. In 2006, he graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in Natural Resources, Interpretation. He uses his many skills to perform a myriad amount of duties for RPC, everything from managing volunteers and seasonal staff, social media and website development, giving tours of Patrick’s Point (his favorite park) and even installing new light fixtures in the visitor centers.
Steve loves the outdoors, and as an avid motorcyclist, enjoys riding his Harley Davidson anywhere that isn’t in the city!
Kristen Zumeta, Executive Assistant
Kristen has always been an outdoors enthusiast. Reveling in the mystery and excitement of challenges like thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, The Appalachian Trail, The Colorado Trail, and many others, makes her a perfect Visitor Services Specialist for all who come to our parks looking for a great hiking experience. She also draws from her background at companies like Patagonia in helping to operate RPC's park stores.
In her home state of Virginia, Kristen studied Biology and Chemistry with a focus on Plant Sciences. She graduated from Old Dominion University in 2006 and quickly began a life of travel and long distance hiking. When she finally made her way to California in 2012, Kristen was hooked. She met her husband on the Pacific Crest Trail that year and in 2013 they decided that the Redwoods would be a perfect home base for all of their outdoor adventures.
Joanna Di Tommaso, Development Director
Joanna settled in Redwood country in 2008 after several invigorating visits to the region. She had a passion for the outdoors, and was eager to get to work in her new community. She began volunteering with Wildlife Biologists at Redwood National and State Parks, and was hired as a seasonal Fish & Wildlife Technician in 2009. Joanna continued her seasonal work as she attended graduate school at Humboldt State University. After receiving her Master's Degree, she was hired as the Operations Assistant for Redwood Parks Association. She has now become the Development Director for Redwood Parks Conservancy. During her off time, Joanna enjoys hiking the beautiful trails near her home and fishing the spectacular rivers of the northern California coast.