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  • About Rock Creek Conservancy


Matthew Fleischer, Executive Director


Matthew Fleischer was appointed as Executive Director/CEO of Rock Creek Conservancy in early 2014. He is dedicated to revitalizing the national treasures of Rock Creek Park - one of the largest Metropolitan parks in the world - and restoring its watershed so that present and future generations can enjoy this natural haven.

Matt brings a new energy to the Conservancy. He understands the value of partnerships, and his vision is that the Conservancy, along with other non-profits, government agencies, businesses, and the surrounding community, will together preserve the lands and waters of Rock Creek. Under Matt's leadership, the Conservancy continues to thrive, expanding its donor base and increasing its impact.

Matt holds a BA in American Studies from the University of Mary Washington and an MBA from the University of Maryland, Smith School of Business. Before his time with the Conservancy, he served as President/CEO of Hook & Ladder Brewing Company, a mission-based business he launched and grew to $7 million in revenue. Hook & Ladder donated a portion of every sale to a local firefighter burn foundation and hospital burn centers across the country. Matt also sat on the board of the Hook & Ladder Firefighter Burn Foundation, and was named one of the top 35 entrepreneurs under 35 in the Washington, DC area by BisNow.

An avid outdoorsman and nature lover, Matt can be found walking the trails of beautiful Rock Creek Park on any given weekend. He also enjoys hiking and backpacking in the wilderness, and the two months he spent backpacking through British Columbia and Alaska is one of his fondest memories. 

Matt lives with his wife, Sarah, their two young sons, and a beloved family dog in Kensington, MD, just outside the Park.

Alena Kaufman, Director of Development & Communications

Alena Web


Alena's professional history ranges from board packets to bulb plantings; for over 10 years, she has entwined nonprofit management experiences and feet-on-the-ground, hands-in-the-dirt action. Most recently, Alena built a public and special events department for Glynwood, a nonprofit in the Hudson Valley focused on sustainable agriculture. There, she increased community engagement, fundraising efforts and donor cultivation. She also oversaw revenue streams that generated substantial earned income to support programs and an annual gala. In addition, she has worked to activate local constituencies for the Small Planet Institute and at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York, an established nonprofit creating partnerships with government and local agencies.

Prior to organizing 250-foot dining tables in a field and many, many dinners with high-profile chefs, Alena grew food and partnered to launch an organic cut flower program in Connecticut, now a blueprint model in the state. She has been certified in organic land care practices, designed gardens that incorporate edibles into landscaping and generally likes getting her hands dirty - whatever the task.

Alena shares a new home in DC with her partner, Andrew, and is focused on a shade garden behind her new home, as well as a front yard, where this past winter someone ate most of the crocus bulbs.

Michelle Kokolis, Director of Programs & Operations


Michelle joined Rock Creek Conservancy in early 2017. Previously, she was the Anacostia Executive Watershed Manager at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), where she provide technical support to the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership including identifying opportunities for collaboration, coordination, and more efficient implementation of restoration projects, Green Infrastructure practices. Michelle also led the Anacostia Trash Reduction Workgroup, which focuses on standardizing the methodologies used by the Anacostia jurisdictions to calculate and report their trash reduction efforts.

Prior to coming to the DC area, Michelle spent 7 years as the Watershed Restoration Project Manager for the James River Association in Richmond, VA, where she was responsible for establishing and maintaining diverse partnerships to implement innovative on-the-ground projects that address stormwater management, sedimentation, habitat restoration, land conservation and other issues facing the James River. She has also worked as an adjunct biology instructor at John Tyler Community College and a life science teacher for Chesterfield County Public Schools. 

Michelle received a Masters of Science in Biology with a concentration in Wetland Sciences from Old Dominion University and a BS in Biology from Susquehanna University.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Michelle grew up on the Allegheny River and has a life-long love of everything related to water. She enjoys spending her free time cooking and baking. When she’s not in the kitchen, you’ll find her wandering around with her dog and taking pictures to support her fallback career as a nature photographer.

Kate Arion, Development Manager for Special Events

Kate Arion joined Rock Creek Conservancy in 2017. Kate has an extensive background organizing public events for the Maryland chapter of The Nature Conservancy, where she coordinated volunteer engagement, partnered with peer nonprofits, and launched a young professionals group. She also worked at Riverkeeper in upstate New York and at the National Audubon Society. Kate is a graduate of Dartmouth College and brings enthusiasm and event planning skill to the team. 

                       Kate For Web 1 of 1

Katy Cain, Communications Manager

Katy Cain Web


Katy is a biology geek with a passion for communications. 

Her background is varied, having worked with national parks, non-profits, and tech start-ups. Before joining the Conservancy, she served as the Visual Information Specialist with Rock Creek Park. There, she developed wayside exhibits and brochures, managed web and social media, and pushed for expanding the park's communications efforts through new technologies. 

When she's not working, you might find Katy traipsing through the forest searching for cool bugs and salamanders to photograph. Don't get to close, or she may make you hold her reflector! Despite her love of the woods, her favorite park in the D.C. area is Georgetown Waterfront Park because it is an excellent example of how green infrastructure can make a city beautiful and functional while keeping the urban ecology healthy.

Erica Carlsson, Program Manager (Youth, Education, Health)


Erica began working at Rock Creek Conservancy in October of 2015. In this position, she is able to connect people with the natural world in meaningful ways that empower self-improvement and environmental conservation. She joined us from The Exotic Plant Management Team for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service. Previously held positions include Interpretive Ranger at Mount Saint Helen's National Monument (Forest Service), Mount Hood Community College (Youth Conservation Corps) Leader, and Graduate Research Scientist with the University of Florida-Geography Department. She is an experienced outdoor educator, who loves hiking, canoeing, and tackling challenge course elements in her free time.

Sherri Hammerman, Administrative Assistant


Sherri Hammerman joined Rock Creek Conservancy as Administrative Assistant in April 2014. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and previously worked as a graphic artist at Fahlgren Advertising, USA TODAY and American University, and also taught early childhood music in Bethesda. Sherri enjoys running on the trails near Meadowbrook Park.