Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Carolyn Ramsay Leaving Parks Foundation and a Legacy of Trees

Carolyn Ramsay, Executive Director of the LA Parks Foundation in her office at the Commonwealth Nursery in Griffith Park.

Windsor Square resident Carolyn Ramsay is leaving her post as Executive Director of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation at the end of May, and moving to New York. Ramsay took over the Foundation five years ago from founding Executive Director Judith Kieffer, with whom Ramsay worked before taking over the leadership role.

Ramsay shepherded the organization through the pandemic, when our city parks proved to be essential, almost life-saving spaces for Los Angelenos while schools and offices were closed. In the early days of the pandemic, the LA Parks Foundation immediately raised funds to support 13 recreation centers that were converted to emergency shelters for homeless residents, providing funds for basic supplies like clean towels.  The Foundation also quickly stepped in to support free daycare in parks for children of first responders. And once learning shifted online, the Foundation provided headphones and art supplies for 60 rec centers that were opened for LAUSD students needing Wi-Fi for remote learning. It even converted vans into mobile rec centers and harvested more 100,000 servings of fruit from the organization’s Franklin Canyon Orange Grove to feed people.

Carolyn Ramsay, LA Parks Foundation Executive Director, at the ribbon cutting of the newly renovated Laurel Canyon Dog Park with CD4 Councilmember Nithya Raman and Debora Vrana, City National Bank, SVP/Chief Communications Officer. Ramsay was instrumental in securing funds for numerous enhancements to LA City Parks during her tenure at the LA Parks Foundation.

It seems like every week or so, Ramsay is cutting the ribbons on a newly renovated park. Locally, with the support of Randy Paskal, the LA Parks Foundation installed more trees at Robert Burns Park on Van Ness Avenue and Beverly Blvd. In nearby Pan Pacific Park, a new play structure has been installed to replace one that was damaged in a fire caused by a homeless individual, thanks to the generosity of Television City. The officially opening was delayed by rain and will be rescheduled, but the structure is already being used by local families.

Ramsay told the Buzz she is most proud of launching the Los Angeles Park Forest Initiative that has added micro forests to eight city parks that desperately needed more shade. The Foundation supports the installation of mature trees and provides maintenance service for two years until the trees are established. These mini forests, between 12 to 30 trees depending on the size of the park, are planted in partnership with local sponsors. So far the Foundation has planted 22 parks and hopes to reach 100 by the end of 2030 — that’s 10 forest plantings a year. The result is a greener, shadier, healthier park that helps offset our city’s carbon footprint.

Lemon Grove Park with fitness equipment and benches and new trees. (photo courtesy of LA Parks Foundation)

Constantly on the lookout for projects that will quickly enhance LA’s urban canopy, especially in city parks, Ramsay found funding for a project demonstrating the Miyawaki method of dense planting only local and indigenous species to create a compact ecosystem that will be self-sustaining after a few years.

In 2021, with funding from the Hancock Park Garden Club, where Ramsay is a member, a Miyawaki Forest was planted in the Bette Davis Picnic Area of Griffith Park. The method calls for planting small saplings close together, creating dense layers and encouraging accelerated growth – reportedly up to 10x faster than a conventional forest. The compact design of this forest makes it an ideal model for habitat restoration and water capture and potentially a game changer for LA City parks.

The pilot project houses 145+ native plant species in a 1,000 sq. ft. circle and is currently serving as a test model for the applications of native plants in our city parks. All of the plants used in this project were sourced grown at the Commonwealth Nursery House with seeds sourced from Griffith Park. The Parks Foundation intends to maintain the forest for two years with monthly hand watering and weed abatement. Once established, this will become a fully self-sufficient native microforest.

Ramsay (right) with members of the Hancock Park Garden Club, which provided funding for the Miyawaki Forest demonstration project at Betty Davis Picnic Area in Griffith Park. Hancock Park Garden Club members Holly Holyk (left) and Michaela Burschinger (center) are shown with Ramsay.

Ramsay’s involvement in the neighborhood began when she and her husband Andy Goodman moved into their home on Norton Avenue in 1993. At the time, Ramsay was a freelance writer for People Magazine, having moved to LA for her husband’s job as a television writer. Ramsay was fascinated with Los Angeles and eager to learn more get involved. Civic-minded neighbors she met in her first house in Hancock Park recognized a talented newcomer and quickly invited her to get involved in neighborhood affairs. She started Olive Branches, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and funds for parks, landscaped medians and school gardens, through a local garden tour. Around that time, mutual friends introduced Ramsay to Linda McKnight, a Larchmont Blvd. resident working to install a landscaped median on Larchmont Blvd. between First Street and 3rd Street, where the street was extra wide to accommodate a street car at one time. Together, they raised all the funds necessary to match city funding, including the construction of the river stone monuments marking the top and bottom of the street.

Former Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge at the ceremony marking the completion of the Larchmont medians in 2002

Ramsay also served as president of the Windsor Square Association for three years, during which she helped the neighborhood develop a tree masterplan and a program to install more street trees. She was also part of the neighborhood effort to secure the Windsor Square Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ).

Professionally, Ramsay shifted from freelance writing and took a job working as a deputy for then-CD4 City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. At one point, she left that job to work for the Trust for Public Land, but later came back to serve as LaBonge’s Chief of Staff. During her tenure, the Larchmont median project expanded north to Larchmont Village and eventually all the way to Melrose Avenue.

LaBonge, Ramsay and other civic leaders dedicate the newest median on Larchmont Boulevard in 2014.
LaBonge, Ramsay and other civic leaders dedicate the newest median on Larchmont Boulevard in 2014.

In 2015, Ramsay decided to run for LaBonge’s Council District 4 seat when the longtime veteran was termed out.

“I’m really glad I did it, I learned so much, it really demystified politics and public speaking for me,” Ramsay told the Buzz. “It was very hard work, we raised over $800,000 from over 700 small donors, but I was so focused on the important changes that I wasn’t intimated by the challenge.”

Ramsay lost that race to David Ryu, who served until he was ousted by current CD4 Councilmember Nithya Raman. Since redistricting took effect in January of this year, the Greater Wilshire area is now split between two new City Council districts, with Windsor Square and Larchmont Village in CD13, and Hancock Park, Brookside, La Brea Hancock, Windsor Village and other neighborhoods in CD5.

Mayor Eric Garcetti with Carolyn Ramsay at her campaign office in 2015.

Ramsay is the youngest of five children. Her father was a professional basketball coach of 21 years coaching teams in Philadelphia, Buffalo and Indiana but he is most well known for the leading the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship.

“The early days of the NBA were very different than it is now,” explained Ramsay. “I would go to the games with my dad but I also worked as a waitress during high school! We didn’t have a fancy life at all but I could see that what they were doing was really different from the other teams.”

Ramsay’s father was a highly regarded in the sport and very prominent in the city while Ramsay was growing up. After high school, she attended the University of Oregon. After college, she moved to Florida for a job working in radio, where she began her career in journalism and met her husband Andy Goodman. Ramsay said she was always inspired by her father’s belief in creating possibilities and his deep commitment to teamwork.

Los Angeles has been the beneficiary of Ramsay’s work ethic and ability to collaborate with others. After she lost the city council election, Ramsay dove into work at the LA Parks Foundation, allowing her to work with every city council member to improve their local parks.

“I am really proud of the work we have done at the LA Parks Foundation over the past five years,” said Ramsay. “We have made huge improvements to our local parks, which are amazing places were anyone can play sports, enjoy green space, socialize…and they clean our air!”

Ramsay and Goodman will be moving to New York City to be closer to both of their families. Ramsay will be leaving behind a greener Los Angeles, thanks to her efforts.

LA Parks Foundation Executive Director, Carolyn Ramsay, and her pup Bruno gave a demonstration of the new wash station at Laurel Canyon Dog Park.

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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  1. Carolyn has given unstintingly to our city. She deserves our gratitude and respect. Thanks to LB for covering her next move. I hope she always stays in close touch with Los Angeles, wherever she is.


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