Emily Renzel, a life long conservationist and dedicated Loma Prieta Volunteer
After more than 20 years, Emily Renzel is retiring from her weekly volunteering in the Loma Prieta Chapter office and she will be missed. Emily has served as a Sierra Club member for over 50 years and demonstrated the power of one person’s advocacy. She became a member of the Sierra Club in 1961 and developed into an effective activist for local preservation. She has worked both within and outside local government to save the natural lands around Palo Alto. Through the 1980s, Emily served on the Palo Alto City Council and, as an early environmentalist, she successfully advocated for the transformation of Palo Alto’s Yacht Club back into wetlands.
For decades, Emily has tirelessly toiled to preserve and expand local parklands. She proved instrumental in passing Palo Alto’s park dedication ordinance that protects park and open space land from any form of development without the expressed consent of Palo Alto voters. She has continued to oppose development on former salt ponds and wetlands and to push for more public access to parks and the bay. In honor of her tireless efforts to protect and enhance local bay habitats, a 150-acre site encompassing a restored salt marsh and newly created freshwater marsh in the Palo Alto Baylands carries her name.
Since 1991, Emily has also helped with the nuts-and-bolts side of the Club’s preservation work. Every week, she has come into the chapter’s office to helping with our bookkeeping and administrative work. The office has relied on her constant, dependable presence for the smooth running of our operation.
Currently, several classes from Palo Alto High School use the marsh to conduct long term studies and other local schools come for class field trips. Although we will miss Emily’s weekly appearance, we rejoice that her legacy lives on in this creation of the next generation of environmentalists.
Rebecca Ratcliff works as a science and technology writer and editor in Silicon Valley and as a pro bono advocate for pedestrian and cyclist safety