Our Team

Meet the staff & board of directors

Park Staff

Executive Director

Martin Lowenstein

As the first executive director of Friends of China Camp, Martin has successfully raised the profile and grown community involvement and commitment to the park. Prior to joining the organization, Martin had been consulting with nonprofits, sharing his expertise in resource development and governance.

From 2010 to 2013, Martin was board chair of the Jerusalem American International School, where he oversaw a doubling of enrollment (from 65 to 149 students), as well as significantly increasing the size of the facility.

Martin received his MBA from Georgetown University and his BS in Civil Engineering from Tufts University. He and his wife, Inbar, have three children, Tamara, Ben, and Maya.  Martin enjoys running at China Camp, reading spy novels and spiritual books, going to farmers’ markets with Inbar, and making his children laugh.

Park Manager

Chris Young

Before joining Friends of China Camp, Chris worked with the National Park Service aboard the historic sailing ships at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park at Hyde Street Pier. Along with his two seasons as a salty 1906-era historic-reenactment actor and maritime educator with the park’s “Age of Sail” program, Chris also worked as a deckhand and apprentice rigger on the park’s tall ships. These responsibilities provided a wealth of hands-on experience in historic restoration, preservation, and ongoing maintenance and management of park assets.

In addition to working at the Maritime Park, Chris has worked on film and television productions, handled sales and marketing for adventure travel companies, worked as a professional hiking and sea-kayaking guide, and held positions at assorted dot-coms. Chris has also worked with one of the world’s largest auctioneers of fine art, antiques, motor cars, and jewelry. Chris’s rich and varied background and his personal interests make him well suited to serve as China Camp’s boots-on-the-ground person for park operations and maintenance.

Strategic Project Manager

Breana Thomas

Breana’s part-time position focuses on overseeing and managing FOCC’s extensive volunteer program. A native of the Bay Area, Breana says she is proud to be the first person in her family to put herself all the way through college. Her experience includes playing and coaching high-level competitive volleyball. She has also worked as an advisor to the Graduate Student Mentorship Program at New York’s Columbia University. She also contributed to research and helped with grant proposals targeting the compound effects of trauma.

Breana notes that being on the team at Friends of China Camp gives her an opportunity to work with and give back to the community.

“I’m so looking forward to learning from the many skilled volunteers here,” says Breana. “I’ve got an innate curiosity for learning and the idea that I get to work closely with so many people with lived experience and diverse backgrounds is so exciting. Oh, and the view’s not too bad either.”

Interim Program Manager

Sheila Coll

Sheila, who was Friends of China Camp’s program director from 2017 to 2023, has rejoined FOCC part-time to focus on special events and programs.

Executive Director Martin Lowenstein notes that one of Sheila’s key focuses will be our annual Heritage Day Celebration, this year on September 21, 2024. “The dynamic program has lots of moving parts,” says Lowenstein. “Having Sheila managing it all makes it so much more manageable. It’s going to be a great event.”

Sheila, who hails from Marin County, has a long history working with California parks. She has held positions as a interpretive specialist at Mount Tamalpais State Park, a One Tam interpreter and aide at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and a park aide at Samuel P. Taylor State Park.

Park Aide

Colin Jaco

If something needs fixing, fix it. Simple. Intuitive. At least that’s how Colin Jaco is wired. Recently hired as China Camp’s new park aide, Colin had already been helping out at the park as a volunteer. He’s ever on the look-out for trash cans that need repair, barbecues that need cleaning, and weeds that need whacking.

“I’m a happy guy who loves mountain biking and the out-of-doors,” he says exuberantly. “What’s totally unique about China Camp is its volunteers. No other organization has such dedicated people.”

Colin is an enthusiastic, energetic young man who grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, played football and basketball, and graduated two years ago from Babson College, a business school in Boston. His parents unexpectedly moved to California while he was in college, and he followed. He fast became a total convert to the West.


Board of Directors

FOCC Board Chair

Jason Lau

Jason traveled from Hong Kong to the United States to be the first member of his family to receive a college education. Currently, he serves as Executive Director for the School of Extended and International Education at Sonoma State University (SSU). Prior to SSU, he served as Director of Community Education, Lifelong Learning and International Education at College of Marin (COM). While at COM, he successfully developed and offered a new history course called the “China Camp State Park: A Unique Cultural and Natural Resource” in partnership with FOCC. Dr. Lau holds a Ph.D. in Educational Policy & Leadership Studies from The University of Iowa. He is also a Certified Park & Recreational Professional. He received his BA and MA in Leisure, Youth and Human Services Administration from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). In 2011, the UNI Alumni Association honored him with the prestigious Heritage Honours Young Alumnus Award. In 2016, he was inducted into the UNI’s Elinor A. Crawford & William R. Thrall Hall of Excellence.

Jon Harding
FOCC Board Vice Chair

Jon Harding

Jon Harding is originally from Wales, UK.  In 2013, Jon moved to the United States and was fortunate to find a beautiful home in Peacock Gap.  With the glory of China Camp State Park as the backdrop for his home base, Jon established a professional services company, specializing in the Renewable Energy sector.  Jon’s company brand and personal ethic, ‘Powered By Trust,’ spring-boarded him to a global reputation.

Before coming to the US, Jon spent 15 years as an “expat,” meeting and then following his Diplomat wife’s career and living in four countries (Jamaica, Mexico, Indonesia and Cyprus).  Jon independently established three businesses that still thrive in Jamaica, Mexico and Indonesia, and his work took him to over thirty countries, helping to establish an extensive business network.  This lifestyle exposed Jon to many fabulous cultures, and honed his skills to effectively communicate cross-culturally.

Throughout his career, Jon has always prioritized volunteer work and assisting members of the community.  Before leaving his homeland in the UK to embark on his international career, he served as a volunteer crew with the RNLI (the lifeboat crew) for 9-years, taking from this experience the ability to bring a team together in the most stressful conditions.  He served as board chair for the American Club in Jakarta, stabilizing the finances of the commissary that served the American community.  In all of their postings, Jon was the “go-to” man who helped with neighborhood projects, from internet connectivity to vehicle repairs.

Jon believes he brings skills in business development, project management, community and team building. His enthusiasm coupled with his desire to preserve and help China Camp State Park thrive has influenced his interest in serving as a board member of FOCC.

FOCC Board Treasurer

Lee Kirkpatrick

Lee’s most recent full-time position was at Twilio Inc., where he was CFO for seven years and led Twilio’s IPO. Prior to Twilio, Lee was CFO at four venture-backed companies and held senior financial positions at Eastman Kodak and Reuters. At present, Lee serves on several boards and advises high-growth technology companies. Lee is also involved with Pledge 1%, a not-for-profit organization that inspires and enables early-stage corporate philanthropy. Lee obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California and his MBA from Columbia University. Lee has lived next to China Camp since 2003 and often hikes or bikes in the park.

FOCC Board Secretary

Andy Kives

Andy retired in 2009 from a 35-year career in emergency medicine and medical administration. He grew up in Michigan, received his MD at the University of Michigan, and served as a medical officer in the Navy for three years in the SF Bay Area. He practiced at the trauma center at Muir Medical Center, as assistant director of the emergency department and as Medical Advisor for California Shock Trauma Air Rescue. He served on the executive compensation and pension committees for CEP America Medical Group, and as board member and president of Muir Medical Group IPA. He has served on the board of the Marin AIDS Project, as a tutor in the AVID program at San Rafael High School, and as a board member of the San Rafael High School Scholarship Foundation. He enjoys hiking, birding, music, art, and travel.

FOCC Director

Arlin Weinberger

Arlin grew up in San Francisco and moved to Marin in 2004. She served on the board of Friends of Mt. Tam for nine years, with six pf those years as president, ushering in the new name and membership changes. She also served on the board of Tamalpais Conservation Club for eight years, producing its newsletter. She is now in her tenth year as chair of the California Alpine Club Foundation. Arlin has also served on the board of Marin Conservation League since 2015 and is a member of MCL’s Parks and Open Space Committee. Recently, she has become a community “ambassador” for One Tam.

Arlin has been hiking in Marin for over 25 years with her weekly Wednesday group. She is a strong supporter of China Camp State Park, because “I love this park–full of trails, birds, wildflowers, even a beach. I’m so lucky to live close by.” Her professional background is in corporate communications.

Ed Lai
FOCC Director

Ed Lai

Ed Lai is an engineer with over 30 years of experience in commercial and defense industries. His BS and MS degrees are in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. In 2008,  Ed moved from Los Angeles to Marin, where he discovered the natural beauty and fascinating history of China Camp State Park. He soon became a docent at the Village museum.  Fluent in both Cantonese and Mandarin, Ed enjoys telling the story of China Camp to visitors from all over the world.  Since July 2012, Ed and a core group of volunteers, in partnership with California State Parks, have saved the park from closure and taken over operations of the park.

Joyce Abrams with tools on a volunteer workday by Harriot Manley
FOCC Director

Joyce Abrams

Joyce retired in 2010 after a career in intensive care and emergency nursing, followed by a career in medical software development.  She has a BSN from Columbia University, and a BS in zoology from the University of California, Berkeley.  She has volunteered for research projects in Australia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Spain, France, Mexico, Thailand, and Costa Rica, studying everything from spotted hyenas to Burgundian prisons.  When Friends of China camp began operating the park, Joyce became involved organizing volunteer teams building and maintaining trails, and later as a board member.  A longtime San Rafael resident, she enjoys birding, hiking, and travel.

FOCC Director

John Muir

John has an MA in Cultural Resources Management from Sonoma State University, and was a Board Member of the Museum Small Craft Association for 16 years. He has worked for the National Park Service for 25 years at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, where he is the Curator of Small Craft. John restores, maintains, and interprets the park’s collection of historic boats, and also researches, designs, builds, and sails replicas of extinct historic Bay Area watercraft.

John designed and built the Grace Quan, China Camp’s flagship replica shrimping junk, which now resides at the maritime museum. John also leads a group of expert volunteers who maintain China Camp’s historic village and pier.

FOCC board member Ed Westbrook headshot

Ed Westbrook

Ed is an entrepreneur whose career has ranged from training the Hamm’s Beer bear and Hartford Insurance elk, to creating stonework for Alcatraz. Ed has over 33 years in the construction industry under his belt, including landscape design, stone design, and stone detailing. He has collaborated with the architect Lawrence Halprin on the Agave Trail at Alcatraz Island, a permanent amphitheater for Stern Grove’s summer concert series, and the restoration of Yosemite’s Lower Falls.

For more than two decades, Ed has traveled extensively in China to develop profitable stone quarries in small, underdeveloped villages in the Shandong Province, and to reclaim antique stone in the Yangtze River Valley. Ed is now using his construction expertise as a FOCC volunteer, working with the California Conservation Corps as well as our own volunteers, overseeing China Camp’s trail improvement projects. On his rare days off, he can be found on his mountain bike, somewhere on the park’s 15 miles of trails.

Park Manager Ian Nelson by Harriot Manley
FOCC Director

Ian Nelson

As our first-ever park manager, Ian Nelson brought intelligence, ideas, and extensive experience in the professional world. Now, his work experiences at China Camp, plus his boundless energy, make him an outstanding member of our board.

Having worked at AutoDesk for 13 years, Ian brings a skill set that includes process and systems improvement and effective resource management. At China Camp, Ian has put these skills to good use, implementing helpful changes in how campers buy firewood, and simplifying the steps for renewing annual passes. He also took on the complicated role of updating our website. “My intention is for FOCC to continually step up its game,” notes Ian. With his professional experience and acumen, Ian also has a keen interest in working on business development for FOCC.

Emeritus and In Memoriam

FOCC Director Emeritus

Ernie Stanton

Even before he joined the board in October 2011, Ernie was already making a difference: Earlier that spring, he volunteered to help set up an outreach table by the campground kiosk to promote membership in Friends of China Camp. Ernie was Friends of China Camp’s first treasurer. He did everything from collecting cash to creating an accounting system to setting up FOCC’s first membership database.

Ernie remained treasurer until Ed Lai took over in late 2017. Ernie has been a long-time visitor of the Village beach and has supported the operations of the China Camp Village cafe since the passing of the former owner, Frank Quan, in 2016.

In his FOCC board “retirement,” Ernie continues to manage the China Camp Village Cafe, selling beverages and snacks at the cafe on weekends to park visitors. That is, after he finishes his trail run and a swim in the bay.

FOCC Director Emerita

Yvonne Brown

Yvonne joined China Camp as a Historical Docent in 1995 and subsequently served for 3 years as a Board member, involved in fundraising and political work.  She took delight in being a part of the process of gathering support that resulted in saving the Park from closing.

Yvonne has always liked to work with children and families and teach art; both interests were put to work at China Camp and Terra Linda Nursery School. She earned an MA from Sonoma State University in June of 1980. Yvonne owned and directed Terra Linda  Nursery School and Day Care for twenty-two years until 2000. For the last 15 years. Yvonne has substituted at the Jewish Community Center in San Rafael as a pre-school teacher, and is currently the Director of an Art Class at the San Rafael Recreation Center. She was President of Marin Society of Artists in 2013. She now specializes in watercolor painting, especially “plein-air”-style landscapes, and is a member of the Marin County Watercolor Society.

Yvonne and her husband Bud made their home in Peacock Gap for 55 years, raising 3 daughters.  They have seen many changes take place from 1963 to the present time.

Helen Sitchler
FOCC Director Emerita

Helen Sitchler

Helen moved to San Anselmo at the age of one year, attended local schools and graduated from Dominican University.  She worked at the Emporium/Capwell Department store and Macy’s at Northgate San Rafael while her children were in school.  She was active in Girls Scouts of America on the Heritage Committee, and held positions of troop leader and national delegate. She began to volunteer in China Camp museum in 1996, and became Head Docent in 2005.  She was Board Secretary from 1998 until 2015.  She remains an active board member and chair of our annual Heritage Day event.

FOCC Director - In Memoriam

Steve Deering (1945-2022)

After retiring from the federal government in 2007, Steve started volunteering as a museum docent in China Camp Village. He was instrumental in negotiating an operating agreement with the California Department of Parks and Recreation when China Camp was threatened with closure in 2011. He served as board chair and vice-chair for several years, and played a key role in the early development of Friends of China Camp.

Steve had a deep passion for the park, serving as a history docent and trail ambassador as well as a board member. He sadly passed in winter of 2022 and will be remembered fondly as a champion of the park.

FOCC Director - In Memoriam

Frank Quan (1925-2016)

Frank was a shrimp fisherman and life-long resident of China Camp Village, a tenure interrupted only by his service in the US Navy during WWII. He saw the Village transition from a thriving fishing operation to a state park. He was the chief ambassador for China Camp State Park and specialist on its cultural and marine history, and was a board member of the Marin State Parks Association.

As a board member of Friends of China Camp, Frank kept us all aware of the natural and cultural treasure we are working to protect, and the community we serve.

FOCC Director - In Memoriam

Carl Holmes (1935-2018)

Carl graduated from SF State with a degree in marketing. He worked for McCormick Spice Company at the corporate offices in Baltimore, Md. as Regional Sales Manager.  After returning to the bay area he worked for a steamship company in San Francisco.  Upon retirement, he joined Friends of China Camp and was its board president for many years. Carl loved being a docent and was active in our cultural history program since it began in 1996/7. He shared the history with visitors and he particularly enjoyed children and school