wonderful," Lockyer said as he stood in the mountains, enjoying the
vista of Burbank and the San Gabriel Mountains.
Credit for Lockyer's presence goes to Garen Yegparian, a Burbank
resident and hike leader with the Verdugo Hills Group of the Sierra
Club, who for three years has been taking public officials into the
mountains as an informal way to meet and talk with constituents while
The inspiration for getting elected officials into an outdoor
setting came from a photograph of naturalist John Muir with President
Theodore Roosevelt in Yosemite National Park in the early 1900s, the
43-year-old Yegparian said.
"I just create the forum and try to stay neutral in this setting,"
he said. "My responsibility is to get people up there safely."
Since he began the political hikes in March 2002, participants
have included all members of the Burbank and Glendale city councils;
Rep. Adam Schiff; Assemblyman Dario Frommer; Los Angeles County
Supervisor Michael Antonovich; and Los Angeles City Councilman Tom
This summer, he will guide more local leaders. La Canada
Flintridge Councilman Anthony Portantino will go in July and Glendale
City Manager Jim Starbird in August.
Sunday's hike attracted about 40 people, including two members of
the Burbank Unified School District board.
Schiff drew 44 hikers in July 2002, the biggest group Yegparian
has led, he said.
When asked to do the hike, Schiff's only condition was that the
other hikers would have to keep up with him, he said.
"If you had the choice between sitting in the office and having a
meeting and being in the outdoors, you'd be crazy not to go," Schiff
What Yegparian is doing is a great public service in getting
elected officials to recognize what a valuable resource the foothills
are for the nearby communities, said Burbank Councilwoman Marsha
Ramos, who was the first official to take part in one of the hikes.
"When you go up with him, there are other hikers joining you,"
Ramos said. "You're doing something active, and the conversation is
much more informal."
Lockyer fielded questions about the responsibilities of his
office, education funding, environmental issues and his run in 2006
for state treasurer.
Lockyer is the most high-profile state official Yegparian has
gotten into the mountains, although Yegparian admitted to setting his
sights on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"The thought has crossed my mind," Yegparian said. "I've been
warned that his [public relations] people will make sure that it's
such a production that it might be onerous."