Vice President Brings Adventure and Love For Outdoors to Daily Work at San Bernardino Valley College
Some folks look to unwind after a hard day’s work at a nice, calm spa, or go for a night of deep restful sleep. Others, like Scott Stark, enjoy unwinding down the side of the steep rocky slope, often nowhere near his home in Yucaipa, California.
When he’s not at his high-pressure day job, the Vice President of Administrative Services at San Bernardino Valley College, he is on call into the wee hours of the morning to help save those lost, stuck, or injured in the wilderness.
The volunteer EMT search and rescue specialist for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department wouldn’t trade the experience for any amount of vacation time. To him, it is the vacation.
When 911 calls for Stark’s services come in, someone is often lost, on the edge of a cliff, or seriously injured. He and other highly trained volunteers spring into action.
Hauling 50-pound backpacks loaded with rescue gear and rope, they often hike miles into the forest, where helicopters either can’t muster the wind or fit into the most confined crevices of the San Bernardino Mountains. When they locate the victim, they need to be clear-headed enough to render medical aid and extract him or her to safety.
“When the initial search is over, we have to have the energy to get out of there, many times carrying the subject in a litter,” said Stark. “We don’t always have a helicopter ride out.” In addition to basic search and rescue, he is also certified for winter mountaineering rescue, rope rescue, rescue utilizing helicopters, and highly technical over-the-cliff rescues.
But his passion for the great outdoors is not limited to the deep forest. Currently, he is training SBVC employees in basic survival and emergency skills, just in case an emergency situation happens on campus. It’s not about putting people in harm’s way, he said, but people have to at least know how to survive, and then act to help others if they are able.
Stark, also specialized in avalanche rescue and using ice ax and crampon when scaling glaciers, said that level of intensity is probably not for every personality type, but rock climbing by nature extends to most areas of his life.
It helps him rejuvenate for work as a high-level public executive, where he faces mounds of paperwork, dollar signs, collective bargaining agreements, and budgets needing review. People and projects, all of the time. It can be stressful.
Out in the wilderness at the top of a big rock face requires a different skill set.
“When I’m way up on the side of a rock and I’m depending on my hand holds and foot placement, I can’t think of problems or anything else in life. It’s all about me and that rock,” he said.
Last month, he turned 60, and is proud of it. He works in physically-grueling situations around younger people less than half his age, and they try to keep up.
When Stark came on board at SBVC over four years ago, he blocked plans for the area around the Kinesiology & Athletics Complex where concrete walkways and pristine landscape had awaited his approval, and instead pushed to bring nature back to those spaces.
It was all grass and lilies and basic shrubs that you just walk by, and concrete,” he said. “I intercepted it, and then it was a team effort. Everyone jumped on board quickly.”
Early on, he pushed for architects to design the sustainable landscape with plants and trees found in the local hills. He also envisioned the area as a destination with excellent Wi-Fi access, small alcoves and shade, fast-growing trees to attract birds, butterflies and local fauna, and a place where the leaves fall where they will. There are no blowers.
“It’s a destination spot,” he said. “People would actually want to go there, to chill, hang out, to enjoy the pond, rolling hills, walkways that are not concrete.”
There are also useful biological gardens for the life sciences department. Next year, students can conduct experiments in outdoor classes. Plant life will assist in the teaching of biology, and the dark green pond, completely natural, serves the dual role of both an instruction resource and a water feature for everyone to enjoy.
“It’s a living pond that will aid in our instruction of the life sciences,” he said, “with moss and aquatic plants growing in there, fish, and algae on the rocks.”
His master plan for the area was to create a natural environment in the middle of an urban campus and city that would attract local flora and fauna, with shade as the canopy matures, the sound of running waters, and the joy of actually walking in a natural landscape.
The gym had already been designed, and the building was a priority because most high schools had better facilities, which kept luring athletically-inclined students away from the campus, but no longer. As VP of Administrative Services, Stark oversaw all facets of the building’s construction and timely completion in collaboration with district facility services
The project completed last year is massive in terms of square footage, costs, and acreage.
“It’s a new, modern facility that helps us to recruit athletes, and encourages students to participate in our athletics and kinesiology programs. It is quite spectacular and the latest facility constructed on our campus,” he said.