Leacock Moves to Santa Fe after Decades of Activism
By SUE PASCOE and BILL BRUNS
Friends gathered Friday morning at Los Leones Gateway Park to bid goodbye to Carol Leacock, a treasured environmental leader in Pacific Palisades and a former Citizen of the Year.
Leacock was preparing to depart on Sunday for Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she will move into an apartment close to her daughter, a retired marriage and family counselor.
A former marathon runner and dedicated hiker, who for years led public hikes in the local canyons and mountains on behalf of the Temescal Canyon Association, Leacock has been assured that hiking trails are close to her new home — and a Trader Joe’s is just 10 minutes away.
“It’s difficult to leave,” Leacock told Circling the News, “but Santa Fe is a nice walking town, with buses, which is good. I hope it has something similar to Santa Monica Emeritus College, where I can take classes.”
Leacock was TCA president for many years, following the death of her first husband, Phil Leacock, a film and television director, in 1991. They had moved to the Palisades in 1966 and raised two children: daughter Rebecca and son J.C., a landscape photographer in Colorado. Carol later married bike-shop owner Ted Mackie, who died in 2017.
At Friday’s ceremony in the Los Leones amphitheater, local historian Randy Young told Leacock, “You are part of the DNA of this beautiful park…This is your accomplishment.”
He recalled how she and other local activists managed to save, restore and beautify the half-mile-long canyon through years of dedicated volunteer work.
Until 1977, the canyon behind Fire Station 23 and between Paseo Miramar and Castellammare was private property and slated to become condominiums. But that year, California State Parks acquired the land, only to leave it neglected as it became increasingly degraded and was used as an illegal dumping ground.
Shirley Haggstrom, a longtime board member of the Pacific Palisades Historical Society, recalled the day in January 1994 when State Parks voted to reconfirm Los Liones (now Leones) as a state park, and reject a development proposal by the Los Liones Botanical Garden Association.
“There was a 7-2 vote in favor,” Haggstrom said on Friday. “I came out to my car and turned on the radio and the Hallelujah Chorus was playing.”
After several years, local residents created a park restoration group that included Young as project manager, State Parks personnel, some male volunteers – and six women who became known as the Glamazons: Leacock, Haggstrom, Norma Spak, Maria Bane, Margaret Jose and Betty Lou Young (Randy’s mother). Young coined this name, he said, because the women were not only beautiful and cheerful, they had the strength of Amazons for getting things done.
“They built this park,” Young said Friday. “It is a handmade park.”
The restoration required thousands of volunteer hours, first to clear away non-native plants (such as eucalyptus) and years of accumulated trash and concrete dumped by contractors.
“We filled twenty-one, 40-yard dumpsters (each dumpster held 10 tons) and it was mostly done by hand,” Young said. “Then we planted more than 1,000 coastal oaks, about 100 sycamores, a few California bay trees and Mexican elderberry” on the 32-acre property.
The trees were purchased by the Temescal Canyon Association and the Will Rogers Foundation, and then carefully nurtured by the Glamazons, who hooked up long hoses to faucets on nearby Getty Villa property and kept the young trees watered (thanks to a cooperative Getty). They watered less accessible trees by hand until they were established.
“And then all the songbirds and butterflies and insects began returning here,” said Haggstrom, who noted that the restoration project also received important help from members of the neighboring Mormon Church, the Self-Realization Fellowship and Palisades Rotary, as well as from residents of Paseo Miramar and Castellammare.
Betty Lou Young later wrote in Pacific Palisades: Where the Mountains Meet the Sea: “Carol Leacock…lined up volunteers and was on hand almost every weekend to hand out the tasks—shoveling, weeding, planting, setting stone, whatever was necessary – and did a large share of the work herself.”
The ceremony to honor Leacock was held at the amphitheater, a lovely spot now shaded by mature sycamores that were planted by the Glamazons.
“Ken Takeo, who does Japanese rock gardens, helped plan it,” Young said, “and the boulders that we used to build it were imported. The Glamazons and members of the Conservation Corps did all the rock work.”
TCA President Gil Dembo presented Leacock with a special Leacock Memorial Trail sign that he “borrowed” from the trail that was built to honor Phil Leacock. (It begins on upper Bienveneda and offers striking ocean views.)
“This is to help you remember Pacific Palisades,” Dembo told Carol. “You’ve been an important part of this community and we’re really going to miss you.”
“Come visit!” Carol replied, cheerfully.
On this sunny hot Friday morning, hiker Avi Satz walked past the amphitheater. When he learned about the Glamazons, he told the women, “[This park] is spectacular, it’s really beautiful. I cherish it so much, I’m honored to meet you.”
There are now just two Glamazons left in the area: Haggstrom and Spak, 91, who told CTN after the ceremony that she still comes every Sunday to pick up the trash and to water plants.