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Park View: Where Hiking and Campaign Trails Intersect

Time spent outdoors in nature is a welcome respite from the daily routines that push many of us from morning to night. Early morning is the best time to begin. The temperature is cool, the air is crisp, the surroundings are calm, wildlife may still be stirring, the sun is rising and many trail options are open for your choosing. It is a great way to start the day!

If you are on one of your favorite trails, you likely know the path well and think little about what might be around the next bend. If it is a new trail you are exploring, you might refer to a pocket map or perhaps your smartphone to ensure you are keeping your intended route. Whether it’s the joy of the journey itself or the simple satisfaction of reaching the planned destination at the trail’s end, the pleasures of hiking for many are multifaceted.

Meeting fellow hikers on the trails is a reasonable expectation, although interactions are usually brief and acknowledged with a quick hello or a wave. Occasionally, a short conversation is initiated with comments about the weather, the verdant scenery, or the abundance of trails and open space to explore. Hikers tend to have a mutual appreciation for nature, the outdoors and the need to get away for a while. You may know nothing about the people you see, but just being on the trail seems to certify a bond of sorts.

By contrast, the campaign trail is a nonstop flurry of activity: forms to fill out, deadlines to meet, money to raise, constant interactions with people (both one-on-one and in groups), planning, strategizing, multitasking and then waiting for the election results. Sometimes you are on your own, and sometimes you have a group of supporters by your side.

The people you greet on the campaign trail provide opportunities to meet new acquaintances, make new friends and share your ideas about why you should be the preferred candidate. It’s an ongoing effort to tell your “story.” Like a hiking trail, the campaign trail can be exciting and rewarding; it can also be tedious and sometimes disheartening. There is a lot of joy in the process, but sometimes, debris along the way needs to be removed. Neither trail may be one you want to navigate alone.

There are no polls for local elections, so the results are never known until the day after – or later. There is a false sense of security when family, friends and networks say they are voting for you because you have no idea how the other 99 percent of voters are leaning! Similarly, the first part of a hiking trail may be somewhat predictable, but it doesn’t mean you know how or where the destination ends.

When you are fortunate enough to complete the campaign trail successfully, you take an oath to defend the United States Constitution and the California State Constitution. You are then seated amongst your peers to commence serving your term in public office. Like many you meet on the hiking trail, those elected with you generally have a similar interest and desire to serve their community. However, unlike on the hiking trail, objectives and planned destinations sometimes differ, making quick hellos and waves inadequate.

As a re-elected Conejo Recreation and Park District Director, I pledge to the community that I will listen, communicate, be authentic and credible, build relationships, be a good role model and act when required.

In December, new boards and councils will convene for the first time; for some, the trail will be new, and for others, the trail will be a familiar one. As candidates transition to elected public officials, let’s remember to extend grace and strive for understanding, both behind the dais and as members of the public. The common goal of bettering our community will only be accomplished by working together. Our community deserves it.

Doug Nickles is a director/board member for the Conejo Recreation and Park District, the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency and the California Association of Recreation and Park Districts. The views expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of the district, agency or the respective boards.

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