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Dan Falat returns to Central Coast as State Parks SLO Coast District director

Dan Falat has been named to take over as superintendent of the San Luis Obispo Coast District of State Parks.
Dan Falat has been named to take over as superintendent of the San Luis Obispo Coast District of State Parks.

A new leader will at the helm of the San Luis Obispo Coast District of State Parks as of Dec. 1, and there’s a bonus extra: The new superintendent already has worked in and loves the diverse district, with all its natural, historic and cultural treasures.

Since January 2013, Dan Falat has been superintendent of the Colorado Desert District near San Diego. But from 2007 through 2009, he served as park operations superintendent in the SLO Coast District’s coastal sector.

During that time, one of the people he supervised was Brooke Gutierrez, who has been interim superintendent of the district since January. That was when Nick Franco left the post after 11 years to become director of the newly established San Luis Obispo County Parks and Recreation Department (formerly a division of the county General Services Agency).

“I knew he would be a perfect fit for SLO Coast,” she Gutierrez said Friday in a phone interview, “and it’s been his career goal to be superintendent here. I couldn’t be more pleased to be working with him again. With his experience at Colorado Desert and his local knowledge, we’re in absolutely great hands.”

The SLO Coast district stretches from Hearst San Simeon State Park to Montana de Oro. (Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area and the campgrounds of Pismo State Beach are part of the Oceano Dunes District.)

Parks within Dan Falat’s new assignment include Cambria State Marine Park, Cayucos State Beach, Estero Bluffs State Park, Harmony Headlands State Park, Hearst San Simeon State Park, W.R. Hearst Memorial Beach, Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve, Montana de Oro State Park, Morro Bay State Park, Morro Strand State Beach and Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument — better known as Hearst Castle.

Falat

Falat said in a phone interview Friday that he and his family (wife Karen and three sons, ages 6, 8 and 10) are thrilled to be back on the Central Coast.

The family has significant history here.

“I love this county, I love this area,” he said, recalling that, “I got engaged on the 24th Street Beach (in Cayucos), and our youngest son was born in San Luis Obispo. For us, it’s a homecoming. … And obviously this area includes some of the most beautiful and iconic parts of the state.”

That assortment draws “a local, state, national and international set of visitors,” he said, noting that what also makes the district such a wonderful place to work is “the great partnerships we have with supporters of the parks,” whether they are individuals, nonprofits, service groups or other governmental agencies.

For Falat, one of the “most exciting parts of being back is we have a really great group of park professionals who work all throughout this district. Now, I’m getting to work with them again. I love history, love culture, love learning why people are drawn to things. I’m like a kid in a candy store.” And he’s not even officially on the job yet.

I love history, love culture, love learning why people are drawn to things. I’m like a kid in a candy store.

Dan Falat, incoming superintendent of the San Luis Obispo Coast District of State Parks

He said he doesn’t know yet what his new salary will be in the lateral move, but expects it will be comparable to his current annual base wage of $98,760, plus more than $8,000 in other pay and $51,684 in total benefits.

Background

Falat was born in Canoga Park, in the western San Fernando Valley, and grew up north in the Sierra foothill community of Coarsegold, north of Fresno. He graduated from Fresno State.

His parks career began in 1997 as a visitor services park aide and park interpretive specialist at Millerton Lake State Recreation Area, also north of Fresno. In 2001, he graduated from the Ranger Academy 17 and became a park ranger. In 2004, he was promoted to supervising ranger at Millerton.

After his San Luis Coastal District assignment, Falat became the Santa Barbara sector superintendent in the Channel Coast District.

Falat is one of only two members of California State Parks to graduate from North Carolina State University’s National State Park Leadership School. In addition, he has been, and continues to be, part of multiple department-instructor programs and work teams, both as a member and as the lead.

This is long term for me. I’ve been successful in other places, but now I’m here.

Dan Falat, incoming superintendent of the San Luis Obispo Coast District of State Parks

Falat has moved around a bit on his upward leadership path, “which has been a huge benefit to me and a lot of fun. But I feel this is it. This is long term for me,” he said. “I’ve been successful in other places, but now I’m here. Brooke has done an outstanding job filling in for Nick. The staff is doing well. We’re in a good place moving forward, and I’m excited to get started, looking toward the future.”

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