Maureen Austin and her family lived in Alpine for 35 years and Maureen was a former reporter who rose to become editor of the Alpine Sun newspaper. Maureen is now in the arms of Jesus. She passed from this life on Saturday, May 5th due to a relatively short battle with cancer that robbed her of her strength, her joy and her desire to help people and create a place on this earth where they could interact with, and preserve nature.
One of her greatest joys came from establishing Alpine, California as America's 1st Community Wildlife Habitat in 1997-98. It was her garden that got the Chamber of Commerce interested in gardening for wildlife and was used to inspire the Alpine community to transform their personal spaces for the betterment of all living creatures.
Maureen approached the National Wildlife Federation with the idea of a community of a wildlife habitats, similar to the NWF's backyard wildlife habitat program which was already being used throughout the nation. The concept of entire Community of wildlife habitats had not been proposed before, so Maureen set out to inspire her home town of Alpine, California to begin a transformation of their individual properties into areas that would invite wildlife into them, instead of keeping them away.. Thus, Maureen started a non profit organization, CHIRP for Garden Wildlife, (the Center to Help Instill Respect and Preservation for Garden Wildlife). With Maureen's encouragement, over 200 personal gardens attained backyard habitat certification, all the schools planted wildlife gardens and many businesses followed suit as well
In 1998 Alpine was recognized by the NWF as America's 1st Community Wildlife habitat. Maureen was presented with an award in the field of Education at the NWF National Convention in Houston Texas, one of only thirteen awards given worldwide in various fields.
Maureen and her family also opened up a small garden shop in the JK Corral shopping center, complete with a walk through butterfly exhibit which was open, free to the public, in order to help educate it's visitors as to the importance of insects as well as other garden dwellers. The Chirp Habitat Hut thrived for over ten years and served not only to provide the town with information and garden related products, but also acted as a hub whereby people came to exchange garden stories as well as problems, solutions and ideas. (A little known fact is that Maureen raised thousands of caterpillars and butterflies at her Alpine home every year for festivals, school programs and releases throughout San Diego, yet never charged for them).
In an attempt to form an identity for Alpine, Maureen developed and helped organize the Sage & Songbirds Festival, along with a dedicated core group of volunteers, whose mission strived to provide tourists and locals alike with information on the importance of caring for our green spaces, reducing pesticide use and encouraging pollinators. Gardening for winged wildlife was her passion, her dedication, her obsession.
(She helped to launch the rebirth of the Zorro Gardens in Balboa Park in San Diego and raised one thousand Monarch butterflies for release during opening day ceremonies to the delight and awe of an immense crowd. Maureen also won numerous awards at the San Diego Del Mar Fair for her design and construction of several Wildlife Habitat gardens, as well as giving lectures and demonstrations throughout San Diego) .
As the Main Street of Alpine was being torn up by SDGE, Maureen seized the opportunity to organize a committee to restore and beautify the areas of the Boulevard that were left barren. Many businesses happily allowed Maureen's team to plant their frontage areas. All plants and labor were donated by CHIRP and a local fundraiser effort. GARDENS ON THE BOULEVARD was a great success and the results remain to this day.
Maureen and her husband, Wallace, relocated to the Coachella Valley three years ago, downsizing from their extensive Alpine garden, to live closer to their son, Micah a registered nurse and his family, his wife Karen and Maureen's grandsons, Asher and Connor. Also Maureen's daughter, and closest friend, Jordan, lives within hours as well and is a very successful business woman.
Maureen loved life and welcomed new experiences and always had a smile and an encouraging comment for everyone. Her smile will be missed, and the world has lost some of it's wonder; the skies some its clarity and the sun and moon some of their brightness.
Maureen left this earth the same day as the butterfly release held in Alpine, the tradition she started. Perfect exit!
Psalm 23 of the Bible was designed with Maureen in mind:
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of The Lord forever".
In lieu of flowers please donate to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
, in memory of Maureen Austin so that others might live.