Director of Jack London Park to step down

Posted on August 29, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun
A longtime environmental advocate, particularly for open space, Tjiska Van Wyk raised funds for nonprofit groups including the Sierra Club, Earth Justice and the San Francisco Zoological Society.

Jack London State Park, once on the verge of closure during California’s budget crisis, in now thriving, with a record number of visitors, a healthy membership base, and sound financial resources.

Tjiska Van Wyk, who oversaw the rebound as executive director, will leave the post in February.

“Tjiska has been an inspiration,” said Board Chair Mike Benziger. “When we took on the mantle of managing this amazing plot of land with the state, we set as our mission to do it in a way that would make Jack London proud. No one I can think of has satisfied that mission better than Tjiska Van Wyk.” 

Van Wyk was working as a Marin-based nonprofit consultant when she took the job in 2012. That year, she recalled, “as part of a budget-balancing effort, Gov. Brown planned to close a number of state parks, including this one. Jack London Partners became the first nonprofit to enter into an operating agreement with the Department of Parks and Recreation to prevent the Park from being closed.”

The park has thrived under her leadership, becoming a financially self-sustaining, revenue-generating operation as it guards the park’s natural and historic treasures.

On the community engagement front, Van Wyk established programs for families and middle schoolers, introduced special interest hikes and classes, and contracted with the fantastically popular Transcendence Theatre Company, which makes its summer home in the park’s amphitheatre. 

Van Wyk told The Sun she is particularly proud of “the creative programs that we’ve put in place here, for instance, health and fitness hikes for the community, and the environmental literacy program for 7th graders. Our partnerships with the school district, Transcendence Theater and Art Escape. And the 100,000 annual visitors – up from 40,000 when I started.”

In honor of Tjiska and all she has done for the Park, the community and the people of California, the Board of Directors is establishing The Tjiska Van Wyk Inspiration Fund. This fund will specifically support Tjiska’s “great responsibilities” through the donations and gifts from the community.

“Tjiska will be sorely missed,” said Benziger. “The board of directors will do everything in our power to fill her footsteps with an able and qualified replacement and make sure that her legacy and her passion live on at this park.” 

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