The Conservancy could not fulfill its commitment to enriching the visitor experience without the dedication of its volunteer corps. More than 60 volunteers work regular shifts at the information counter inside the Visitors Center at the House of Hospitality. One of the Visitors Center’s many longtime volunteers, Dolli Cutler, has become an iconic fixture there, serving thousands of park visitors each year. We spoke to Dolli about her experiences in Balboa Park, her background, and what led her to becoming a park volunteer.

How long and in what capacity have you been volunteering in Balboa Park?

I’ve been at the Visitors Center since 2002. But I began my volunteering in the park a year before that at the San Diego Museum of Art, doing tours. At the time, I got to know some of the people in the Visitors Center and became interested in working there.

Tell us something most people don’t know about Balboa Park.

The park has 17 museums, and most people don’t know that. They don’t realize the scope of the park. And it’s not just the museums—it’s the grounds, it’s the gardens, it’s everything! I’ve never encountered a park like this in any city, even in DC, even in LA.

What is your favorite season or time of year in the park and why?

Spring. Everything is in bloom. And there are so many gardens in the park, you could go nuts.

What first got you interested in volunteering in Balboa Park?

After I retired, I moved to San Diego since my sister lived here, and we were going to live together in retirement. (And we still are!) I was very bored the first few months. My sister had a very active life, but we weren’t interested in the same things. So I finally drove into Balboa Park one day, and it hit me: this is where I want to be! Everyone was smiling. It was beautiful! It had everything that I enjoy! That’s when I went to the San Diego Museum of Art to be trained as a volunteer. I did that for about a year, before meeting people at the Visitors Center and getting trained there. I loved it—and still love it!

Tell us a little bit about your background? Is there anything about you that might surprise people?

My field was aging, gerontology–I worked in Washington for the Administration on Aging, and I was there for many years. But I was educated in art, and I still love art! And way back, in one of my first jobs of any importance, I was the West Coast Editor of Seventeen magazine. That was a long time ago. I went to New York every June for the fall fashion shows, and I met fascinating people. I had a great job. But after a while—this was during the 60s and 70s—I wanted to do something more meaningful.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about your experience volunteering in the park?

The people I’ve worked with in the Visitors Center uniformly are terrific people. I’ve liked every one of them. It’s unusual that you are involved in an organization where you get along with everyone. Everyone is terrific!