Hulet Hornbeck, Trail Activist and Land Acquisition Specialist

Hulet was a long-time American Trails board member. He created his legacy through trails during 20 years of land acquisition for the East Bay Regional Park District. His intellect, kindness, public sense of stewardship and humor was an inspiration to us all!


Mr. Hulet Clark Hornbeck, a New Jersey native was a lifetime conservationist and outdoorsman. It was in the Army Air Force during WW2, where Hulet's skills in navigation, map reading, understanding of topography, and natural instincts resulted in his assignment of lead navigator in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

After the war, Hulet studied Forestry at University of Maine and received a law degree in 1949 from Rutgers University.

Hulet enjoyed a distinguished career as Chief of Land Acquisition for the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) from 1965 through 1985, and was well-known for his many years of volunteer efforts on behalf of trails.

The East Bay Regional Park District credits Hulet with overseeing the acquisition of 49,000 acres of parkland, expanding the District’s land holdings from eight parks (13,000 acres) to 46 parks (62,000

Hulet's vision was clear from the beginning of his career, "I am well aware of the potential of open lands and the experience they can provide. I believe they are essential to the well-being of our citizens and future generations."

Hulet left no doubt about how strongly he felt about the role of government in protecting land: "I have a certainty that public urban parks, trails, and open space corridors have a priority equal in the public interest and benefit to that for railroads, roads, power, and public buildings."

Currently, EBRPD manages over 91,000 acres of land, 1000 miles of trails, 150 of which are in regional, recreational and transportation trails systems, linking communities, schools, residential areas, shops, business parks, regional recreation facilities and public transportation centers. Hulet’s work greatly contributed to the unique position that the East Bay Regional Park District still enjoys today as being the largest regional park system in the nation.

Hulet speaking at the Kodak American Greenways Award in 2003, whenAmerican Trails was selected as a national award recipient

Hulet speaking at the Kodak American Greenways Award in 2003, whenAmerican Trails was selected as a national award recipient

Volunteer Efforts

Hulet’s volunteer efforts on behalf of trails, greenways, and parks were varied and numerous. He served in leadership roles with the following organizations over the years:

  • American Trails
  • American Hiking Society
  • Amigos de Anza
  • California Conservation Council
  • California Recreational Trails Committee (Governor-appointed committee 1987-1996)
  • California Trails & Greenways Foundation
  • Contra Costa Parks Committee
  • East Bay Area Trails Council
  • Heritage Trails Fund
  • Martinez Land Trust
  • National Trails Council
  • Regional Parks Association
  • Save Mt. Diablo
  • Sierra Club (San Francisco Bay Chapter)
  • Solano County Farmlands and Open Space Foundation
  • And others...


  • California Conservation Council - Award of Merit
  • Heritage Trail Fund Award
  • John Muir Memorial Association - John Muir Conservation Award
  • Pacific Order of Sante Terra - Walkers Award of Merit
  • Metropolitan's Horsemen's Association - President's Cup
  • 1996 ~ Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Trails and Greenways Conference in 1996. In presenting this award to Hulet, Donald Murphy of the California Department of Parks & Recreation said,
    “Hulet, probably your most important contribution is in passing your vision on to others. The value of that message is beyond measure.”
  • 2000 ~ Hulet was presented with the American Trails National Lifetime Service Award for his years of demonstrating longstanding, significant and exemplary service to trails preservation, planning, implementation, and recreation. His award read,
    “Hulet, we recognize your lifetime of standing ovations ~ Thank you for lighting our way!”
  • 2005 ~ Hulet was honored on October 14, 2005 with the dedication of the Hulet Hornbeck Trail at Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline.

Hulet passed away peacefully with his daughter at his side in Pacific Grove at the Del Monte Rest Home where he had resided since July of 2011. Hulet’s wife of 50 years, Mary Lynn, predeceased him in 1995.

The Hulet Hornbeck Award

Hulet organized the 1st National Trails Symposium in 1971 and was a founding board member of the National Trails Council, predecessor to American Trails. He then actively and enthusiastically served on the National Trails Council for 17 years and on the Board of Directors for American Trails for over 16 years. Hulet inspired the American Trails Board throughout the years with his zest for life, integrity, wisdom, passion for trails, and unwavering vision for preservation.

In 2006, American Trails created a special National Award in Hulet’s honor: the “Hulet Hornbeck” Award. This award is “for an individual that, like Hulet Hornbeck, exemplifies long-standing vision and wisdom in support of trails.” It is the highest honor celebrated in the national trails community. American Trails’ national awards are presented every two years at the National Trails Symposium.

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