We recently sat down with Executive Director Martin Lowenstein.
1) Please tell us your name and a little more about yourself.
My name is Martin Lowenstein, and I am the executive director of a non-profit organization that operates a California State Park. I am married, have three children, and live just five minutes down the road from the State Park in which I work.
2) What is your expertise? As a professional, what would you say is your unique value proposition?
My expertise is in business administration and fundraising. My unique value proposition is the combination of business and fundraising experience that I bring to a non-profit organization.
3) What does a typical day look like for you? How do you stay productive and efficient on a consistent basis?
On a typical day, I make a point of checking in with my staff and volunteers to see what’s going on in the park. I regularly track the finances of the park and engage with the local community to support the park.
4) You’ve spent six years as an executive of a state park. Can you give us a better understanding of that industry and how it has changed over the years?
Operating a state park is a delicate balance of preserving the natural resources of the park while allowing for public access. We are a non-profit operator of a state park, and what has changed over the years is that more and more people working for the State have greater acceptance of organizations that partner with the State to ensure that parks are operated, maintained, and supported in the greatest way possible.
5) You’ve been in this field for nearly seven years. What is it about your industry that has held your interest for so long?
What holds my interest is the service that we provide to the community. We preserve, maintain, and keep safe 1,500 acres of woodlands, trails, picnic areas, a campground, and a historic shrimping village. Our park is a treasure in Marin County, and I’m passionate about being a caretaker of our park.
6) Which professional accomplishment or success story are you most proud of? What stands out as one of your most notable achievements?
In just a few years, we have grown our revenue from $450,000 to $800,000 per year and balanced the annual operating budget. Making a park financially sustainable is perhaps my most notable achievement. We have also built a core group of close to 100 volunteers who do everything from maintaining the trails to staffing the park entrances and historic cafe and museum to doing our bookkeeping. We wouldn’t be able to operate the park in a financially sustainable way without our dedicated volunteers.
7) Can you name a particular challenge or obstacle that really tested your mettle and what you did to overcome it?
A great challenge was operating the park during COVID. With people not traveling in 2020 and even in 2021, parks were overrun with hikers and mountain bikers. The record attendance took a toll on the park and on my staff, but we kept park visitors safe, and we persevered to keep the park open as much as possible to give people an outlet for recreation when they had been sheltering in place.
8) What would you say is the key to becoming successful in your industry?
The key to becoming successful as a park operator is to engage the local community to support the park with their time, expertise, and financial resources.
9) Do you have any upcoming projects you’re really excited about?
This year marks 10 years that we have been operating the park, and we are going to celebrate with a 10th-anniversary dinner in October. We are expecting 120 attendees, and I plan to acknowledge their crucial role in supporting the park in every facet of its operation.
10) Are there any professional or industry trends that have recently caught your attention? What about those is exciting to you?
There is a trend to engage a more representative cross-section of the local community. Our park visitors are from all walks of life. We aim to hire staff and recruit board members that represent the community we serve.
11) What advice would you give your younger self?
I would assure my younger self that, one day, you will utilize all of your skills in a position and will feel passionate about your work.