Behind the Parks: Meet Willis at Scioto Audubon

Park Ranger, Scioto Audubon Metro Park & Greenway Trails

Willis on the water tower overlooking the climbing wall at Scioto Audubon Metro Park.

Columbus, Ohio

What I do at Metro Parks
In 2007 I was an intern during the very first year of what became the Columbus City Schools Intern Initiative (CSI). After three years in the program, I worked as a Camp Counselor on Metro Parks Summer Camps for another three seasons. After some years working in the private sector, I became Park Ranger at Scioto Audubon Metro Park and Greenway Trails in July 2021. As a Park Ranger I get to be a presence in the community and interact with our guests on the park trails and Greenways. I’m also learning about radio communications with other Park Rangers as the Metro Parks Dispatch function is here at Scioto Audubon.

What I love most about my job
I love being outdoors every day, meeting guests and helping them. I’ve also learned a lot about nature while working here and I love my interaction with fellow team members and how I benefit from their mentorship. On top of that, I get to work at special events, like Scioto Fest and WAG! Fest.

Willis looks across the fields at Scioto Audubon.

My favorite Metro Parks activity
I love to bike on the Metro Parks trails, and I get to do that as part of my job when I’m out on patrol of the Greenways. My favorite trail to bike on is the Camp Chase Trail, which is very scenic.

My favorite Metro Parks story that includes a positive guest interaction
One time this summer, we were hit with a sudden and severe storm, and there was an elderly lady near the Bocci courts, with her umbrella blowing and close to breaking in the wind. She was very nervous and worried about the storm, and I talked to her and helped to calm her. A couple of weeks later, I saw her again on one of our trails. She was so pleased to see me and very grateful for the help I’d offered her, and it felt very rewarding, to know that even the simple things we do can have a big and positive impact on our guests. It made me feel like I’m becoming the Park Ranger that I want to be!

Something to share about guest service and creating a positive experience
As Park Rangers, we’re on the frontline of interaction with our guests, and I love being a part of an organization that cares about the community. We have a good, diverse workforce at Metro Parks where team members love the parks and the communities they work in.

If I could go anywhere in the world and time and money were not a concern…
I’ve seen a few films set in Paris and they’ve made me want to go there. Especially with a significant other — one day! Paris is perhaps the greatest city in the world for romance. It also has great museums and art galleries, which I’m passionate about.

Life news to share
Two of my favorite things are concerts and long road trips, so it’s a no-brainer to combine the two. I’ve driven solo to concerts in Boston and in New Orleans, but my longest solo road trip was out to Los Angeles, California. There were so many fantastic stops along the way! I got to see the mountains in Denver, experience the grandeur of Utah, and share in the wonderful sense of community in Venice Beach, where homelessness and other social problems are tackled by the community itself. They even put on shows for each other.

Fun facts about me and my family
1. I like lots of different music styles, especially hip-hop, R&B, and Rap. I’ve also seen Justin Timberlake live in concert. He was really good!
2. I have a very competitive streak, which comes out when I play basketball. I also like physical challenges, so I have a home gym. One day, I want to do a triathlon.
3. I enjoy reading Shakespeare. Of all “The Bard’s” great works, I like King Lear the best.

My favorite food and dessert
I do some cooking of my own, but my favorite food is the chicken tikka masala my godmother makes. She also makes a fantastic plum torte, which is even better with vanilla ice cream.

If I had just 60 seconds to share why I love working at Metro Parks, I’d say…
Metro Parks has given me a great foundation for both personal and professional development. It’s such a positive place to work and has given me so many wonderful opportunities to grow and to feel a part of something important in our communities.

Willia Woodard was talking to Communications Coordinator, Virginia Gordon