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The Great Outdoors
Carmichael resident helps kids connect with nature
By Jessica Laskey
Next time you visit Earl J. Koobs Nature Area in Carmichael near La Sierra Community Center, look for groundskeeper Linda Rose Jones.
She’ll be playing in the mud.
“I love going into the area looking for millipedes,” Jones says. “I love following little kids and watching their discovery. That’s what lifts my heart.”
For more than two decades, Jones has helped maintain the nearly 5-acre nature area off Engle Road named after the late La Sierra High School biology teacher Earl “Ranger Jack” Koobs. The riparian environment, established in 1971, includes creeks, ponds, meadowlands and a bird sanctuary.
“I just do the raking,” Jones says of the vast volunteer labor she’s given the park.
When Jones’ son was in third grade at Garfield Elementary, the school used the nature area as an outdoor classroom run by Koobs, a teacher and World War II veteran. Jones and Koobs struck up a friendship that lasted until Koobs died in 2015 at age 94.
A key component of the nature area is the La Sierra Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Created in 1973 and thought to be the state’s first Vietnam memorial, the beautiful metal structure is dedicated to 14 La Sierra High School students who gave their lives.
When the nature area was almost sold in 1988, the La Sierra and Garfield communities created the “Save Our Soil” campaign to have the park placed in an educational trust. The memorial was rededicated that November.
Over the years, attendance dwindled at the memorial until 2001 when Jones made it her mission to provide an opportunity for more formal observances. She helped launch the first Day to Honor and Remember, Nov. 11, 2001, now an annual tradition on both Veterans Day and Memorial Day supported by Kiwanis Club of Carmichael, La Sierra Alumni, California Cadet Corps and local scout troops.
“So many people in the community used to say, ‘I didn’t know this was here,’” Jones says. “Now it’s respected instead of just forgotten in a pile of weeds.”
Weeds are no problem for Jones, a Bay Area native who grew up enjoying the “serendipity of nature” while walking along creeks. When she and her husband moved to Sacramento in 1986, they bought an acre lot in Carmichael with a house built in 1909. When not working her day job in skilled nursing and elder care, Jones still loves to be outdoors, especially when acting as docent for school kids who visit the nature area.
Jones credits Kiwanis Club of Carmichael for the park’s endurance. In 2016, the club adopted the nature area as a signature project to maintain. Jones says Kiwanis is “always doing something,” from raising money for arts education in the San Juan Unified School District to making lunches for Special Olympics.
Outside of Kiwanis, Jones runs the annual blood drive for Congregation Beth Shalom, collecting more than 1,200 pints in 20 years. She volunteers for Sacramento Kindness, Family Promise and Fair Oaks Theatre Festival. It’s easy to see why she was one of District 3 County Supervisor Rich Desmond’s Community Heroes last year.
But the Koobs Nature Area is dearest to her heart.
“I love to tell young people, ‘Who owns this area? You, because you’re a student of San Juan,’” Jones says. “They can plant a tree that they can someday show their grandchildren. I like that we’re emphasizing sustainability to help make this world a better place for other generations.”
Earl J. Koobs Nature Area is open the first Saturday of the month, March through October, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For information, visit kiwanisclubofcarmichael.com/koobs-nature-area.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.