In the late 1980s, just out of college and working in the city of Los Angeles for a few years, Dong felt the need to get out of the city and enjoy the wilderness, so he joined the Sierra Club.
Since then, his experiences backpacking and hiking have led him to organize conservation projects.
“When you go hiking a lot, you want to preserve the land you’re hiking in,” he said.
As chairman of the local Sierra Club group, Dong has succeeded in preserving the wilderness he enjoys so much. About 12 years ago, Dong helped defeat the Oakmont View V development project, which would have brought about 500 homes into the Verdugo Mountains. Dong and his Sierra Club group are working through an umbrella organization to stop the redevelopment of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course, Dong said.
Dong said helping to halt the Oakmont V project was the most rewarding thing he has done through the Sierra Club.
“That felt really good when we helped preserve that land because that’s something we have in perpetuity that those after us can enjoy,” he said.
Dong was instrumental in fundraising and collaborating with Glendale-Crescenta Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment to stop the Oakmont V project, said John Lajeuness, an officer of the Crescenta Valley Sierra Club.
For his efforts, Dong received the Angeles Chapter Weldon Heald Conservation Award in 2000.
Dong has won several awards through the Sierra Club, two of which he won for his efforts organizing outings.
Dong leads many Sierra Club outings annually and has been doing so for years. This year, he will lead trips to Yosemite, Alaska, Borneo and China. Lajeuness, who has led trips with Dong several times, said Dong makes sure people have a good experience on his outings.
“I consider Fred one of the premier leaders of the whole Crescenta Valley chapter,” Lajeuness said.
Dong’s wife, Stephanie Gross, is also a Sierra Club member, and said she often goes on the trips her husband leads.
The couple met through the Sierra Club and bonded on a backpacking trip during the early 1990s when Dong was leading a 20s and 30s singles group that Gross joined. Gross said people enjoy her husband’s trips so much that one time, when Dong thought he would have to cancel a backpacking trip due to a back injury, the trip members offered to carry his pack.
“Next thing I know, I get e-mails from these three guys that they must have Fred on the trip; they didn’t care how, and that they were willing to carry all of his gear for him,” Gross said.