Norma Jean Hamlin, a tenacious Orangevale activist who led a 13-year battle to preserve a scenic wilderness area overlooking Lake Natoma, died Saturday at age 82.
Friends said Ms. Hamlin, who never married and had no known survivors, died after spending the last 18 months at a Fair Oaks assisted living center.
Ms. Hamlin was a retiree who lived alone for many years near Snipes-Pershing Ravine, a riparian woodland considered a crown jewel of the American River Parkway. An ardent environmentalist, she spent hours photographing and compiling scrapbooks on native plants and animals.
She was a free spirit who wore mismatched colors, burst into song in public and filled her home with boxes of documents and mementos. She put food out for stray pets and left water in Tupperware bowls in the woods for wildlife on hot summer days.
She was also a relentless advocate for Snipes-Pershing Ravine, which was zoned for condominium development. In 1989, Ms. Hamlin organized a communitywide effort to lobby the California Department of Parks and Recreation to buy the 31-acre property.
Taking on the tedious work required to make change happen, she spoke at meetings and gathered petition signatures. She contacted reporters and enlisted support from groups and agencies. She filled voice mail boxes in state offices with messages after midnight and wrote letters to elected officials.
"She would take things down to the Governor's Office and sit outside until somebody would accept her letters and photographs," said Chuck West, an Orangevale parks superintendent. "She would have gone to the president if she could have."
Ms. Hamlin's efforts paid off when the property owner agreed to sell for half the asking price. The state acquired the land for about $1 million, and Snipes-Pershing Ravine was dedicated into the California parks system in 2003.
"Norma never despaired, never gave up," said Rob Kane, a state parks project manager. "She was a wave that just kept washing against the rocks until she wore the edges down."
Ms. Hamlin was honored with awards from the state parks director, the Sacramento Tree Foundation and the Daughters of the American Revolution. A park near her home also was renamed for her by the Orangevale Recreation and Park District.
According to a state parks biography, Ms. Hamlin was born in 1928 in Middlesboro, Ky., and raised in Mansfield, Ohio. She worked in civilian jobs at Air Force bases in Ohio and San Bernardino before settling in Orangevale in 1965. She retired at McClellan Air Force Base.
She earned an associate's degree in sociology from American River College. She took a biology course at ARC that inspired her interest in environmental conservation.
Ms. Hamlin belonged to the Sacramento Valley Conservancy and the California Native Plant Society. She was active in the Orangevale Seventh-day Adventist Church and formerly performed with the Fair Oaks Village Singers. She enjoyed art, music and traveling, and she raised dachshunds for many years.
"She was somebody who danced to her own music," said West, "but her heart was always in a good place."