Michel Anderson, chairman of the San Diego Parks Foundation board of directors, recently announced Katherine Johnston has been hired as the nonprofit’s first executive director.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve as the San Diego Park Foundation’s first executive director,” said Johnston, who resides in Bird Rock.
“With the continued support of our partners and the City of San Diego, my hope is that together we can build a park system that ensures every San Diegan has access to a high-quality park with meaningful recreation opportunities. Our role is particularly important for neighborhood parks that have been underserved or overlooked in the past.”
Johnston currently serves as the chair of the City of San Diego’s Parks and Recreation Committee and Balboa Park Committee. Most recently, she served as vice president of Presidio PAG Inc., where she managed a portfolio of nonprofit and corporate clients.
Prior to her work at Presidio, Johnston served as a senior policy and communications advisor to former Mayor Kevin Faulconer. In this role, she managed the development and legislative approvals of the City's annual $3.3 billion budget, oversaw the administration’s economic development and workforce development initiatives, and spearheaded major capital and environmental projects.
“Great cities have great parks and the San Diego Parks Foundation provides the philanthropic support needed to improve parks in every neighborhood,” Mayor Todd Gloria said. “Katherine Johnston has been a fierce, long-time champion for San Diego parks. I know her leadership will help us create a more equitable parks and recreation system for all of us.”
The San Diego Parks Foundation was created in 2018 to bolster the City of San Diego’s efforts to build a world-class park system that is relevant, accessible, iconic, sustainable, and equitable for all. Through its volunteer and philanthropic efforts, the San Diego Parks Foundation will focus on bringing needed resources to the parks where San Diegans play.
“Bringing Katherine on board is an important milestone for our organization as we work to ensure every San Diegan has access to a high-quality park and recreation center,” said Anderson. “Our board recognized that this hire is likely the most important decision we will make this year, and it is not one we took lightly. We are confident Katherine will lead our organization with purpose and character as we strive to create social equity through a world-class city parks system.”
The San Diego Parks Foundation has been the driving force behind public-serving initiatives including:
Installation of free Wi-Fi at 19 of the City’s 57 recreation centers, with a goal to bring access to all locations.
Renovation of the Southcrest Recreation Center by replacing the decades-old gym floor and scoreboard, repainting of the facility, and installation of free Wi-Fi.
Providing financial support to facilitate the distribution of meals at local recreation centers amid the COVID-19 crisis. As of Dec. 31, the program has provided 159,712 meals for kids at 17 recreation centers throughout San Diego.
Embarking on a tree planting initiative to help the City of San Diego meet its long-term climate action tree canopy goals.
Current initiatives the San Diego Parks Foundation is working on and seeking support for:
Get Kids Outside is an initiative to bring fun, safe, and free outdoor activities such as movies in the park to recreation centers across the city.
Renovation of the former San Ysidro Library from a vacant city building to a vibrant community center with senior and youth services.
Johnston’s first official day on the job was Feb. 8. To learn more about the San Diego Parks Foundation, visit sandiegoparksfoundation.org.