Park superintendent takes honorary role
BORREGO SPRINGS - Being named honorary mayor for this desert community is just what the title implies: an honor. Mark Jorgensen considers it a tribute by the community for his many years of working for the state park.
By Ruth Lepper
November 4, 2006
"I've lived here for 30 years and get involved in community affairs," said Jorgensen, superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the town's newly appointed honorary mayor.
"I have a lot of pride in Borrego Springs as a town and a place to raise my family. I try to make it a better place. It just makes living in our small town just that much more enjoyable and more gratifying."
The honorary mayor is chosen each year by the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce. Jorgensen serves on a subcommittee for the chamber that he calls the Think Tank.
"It's a group of people who brainstorm new ideas for revitalization of the town center," he said. "To find ways to make the town appealing, make a good impression to entice travelers to stop, walk through the town and enjoy the hospitality."
As honorary mayor, Jorgensen will be helping to make that happen. Although he has no definite plans for fulfilling his role - he was installed Oct. 27 - Jorgensen will help out wherever needed, including talking to service clubs on the chamber's behalf and continuing to assist with the annual food drive during the holiday season.
"We at the park have been helping with delivering to 80 to 100 families," he said. "Every kid gets a toy; every family gets enough food for a meal."
Jorgensen, 55, started coming to the desert when he was a child growing up in Fletcher Hills. He was hired when he was 20 as a seasonal employee at the park to work on a bighorn sheep project.
"I lived in an outpost at Fish Creek during the cooler season of the year, while I was still in college," he said.
After he was hired full time, his first assignment was working at state park beaches in Ventura. After a couple of years, he transferred back to the desert and was assigned to the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, just east of the Anza-Borrego park.
Following that assignment, he was a state park naturalist in Borrego for 13 years.
"I was the last of the park naturalists in the state," he said. "They did away with that classification. It became a state park resource ecologist."
Jorgensen was promoted to park superintendent in 2001.
"I was having so much fun studying the bighorn and being a patrol ranger," he said. "I just came to know the place very well and loved it. . . . It was just a wonderful opportunity at a place you were already in love with your whole life. I've really had no desire to work anyplace else."
Sometimes he misses being out on patrol, he said, and thinks there's too much administrative work as superintendent. But Jorgensen already has made his plans for retirement.
"I will be a volunteer," he said, filling one of the many positions within the state park system in Borrego Springs.
"They are tremendous folks," he said. "They become your best friends in the whole world."
> Ruth Lepper is a freelance writer who lives in Ramona.
Mark was also listed as one of the 50 people to watch in 2008 in the San Diego Magazine.