Metro Parks visitors take delight in many things they can see in the parks, whether that be a beautiful sunset or sunrise, a chance sighting of a deer or a coyote in a woodland clearing, the wonderful spread of wildflowers in a spring forest—but many visitors take even more delight in seeing the easily-recognizable shirt of a Metro Parks volunteer. Volunteers can be seen everywhere, and the parks are all the better for that. We rely on the unstinting dedication of more than 750 volunteers, who contribute their time, energy and talents toward the preservation and enjoyment of natural areas and parks for millions of Central Ohio visitors.
FIRST METRO PARKS VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR
A Volunteer of the Year Award seemed to be a long overdue addition to the Metro Parks, and thanks to the combined efforts of the parks and the Friends of Metro Parks, that award has now become a reality. Barbara Merritt, a long-time volunteer at Clear Creek, was the inaugural winner of the Metro Parks Volunteer of the Year Award. She was presented with her trophy, an inscribed colored-glass zenith, at the Friends of Metro Parks’ State of Metro Parks and Annual Meeting.
A VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AT MULTIPLE PARKS
More than 200 people attended the event, held at Scioto Audubon Metro Park on Sunday January 8, 2017. Hors d’ouevre were enjoyed pre-meeting, as Friends of Metro Parks and volunteers from numerous parks interacted and chatted with old friends and colleagues. Before the awards session began, Metro Parks’ Executive Director Tim Moloney gave a short speech about the state of Metro Parks today, followed by Friends of Metro Parks President Kathryn Kelley, who presented the Friends of Metro Parks Annual Report, showing how the organization has grown in the past three years and highlighting some of their successful projects, such as Friends-raising events at Clear Creek, Yappy Hour at Scioto Audubon, and the special preview evening prior to the opening of our newest park, Scioto Grove.
Numerous parks and Metro Parks departments nominated their own volunteer of the year, and 17 names went forward to the Friends of Metro Parks Membership Committee. This team had the difficult, almost impossible task of analyzing the wonderful stories of these 17 volunteers and coming to an agreement on an overall Metro Parks Volunteer of the Year. Any one of the 17 would have been a worthy choice, but the energy and commitment of Barbara, who has volunteered at Clear Creek for 17 years, came to the fore as the team continued their discussions.
A WORTHY WINNER
All 17 of the nominated volunteers received an inscribed medallion, as volunteer of the year for their individual park or department, before the overall Volunteer of the Year Award winner was announced. The nominating form submitted by Clear Creek stated that Barbara Merritt: “…helps with programs that cover a broad range of topics. From Trees, wildflowers and ferns, to birds and aquatic life, Barbara is knowledgeable about every subject. She is always willing to help out with extra work. She often will travel to check a backcountry hiking route ahead of a program, pruning Multiflora Rose out of the path as she goes. She is very patient with visitors during hikes, while answering questions, her hike often takes 2 hours longer than it does for volunteers in the front! She monitors the Cemetery Ridge Butterfly Transect and also monitors the hemlock trees for hemlock woolly adelgid, even in the winter. She is the first volunteer to be an active member of OCVN (Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist) and hosts the Bi-Annual OCVN Herpetology and Aquatic biology Sessions.”
Metro Parks’ volunteers have fun, meet people and learn new skills while working in some of the most beautiful parkland in Ohio. Metro Parks maintains 19 parks comprising more than 27,000 acres of land. Volunteer opportunities are as varied as the Metro Parks themselves.
All you need to become a volunteer is enthusiasm for our natural or cultural history, a willingness to learn and a desire to share with others. Work schedules are flexible and depend on your chosen assignment and park. No previous training or experience is needed; training programs are provided.
Friends of Metro Parks is a non-profit, membership-based, organization focused on supporting our Metro Parks through interactive activities, advocacy and fundraising. We LOVE our Metro Parks… and we we work to make sure these beautiful, natural spaces are LOVED and enjoyed for generations to come.
Check out the Friends of Metro Parks’ Facebook page for more photos from the event
METRO PARKS VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR
Barbara Merritt, Clear Creek Metro Park
PARK AND DEPARTMENT VOLUNTEERS OF THE YEAR
Battelle Darby Creek: Dave Henderson
Blacklick Woods: Mary Beth Boster
Blacklick Woods Golf Course: Roger Teters
Blendon Woods: Mary Wildermuth
Clear Creek: Barbara Merritt
Glacier Ridge: Harland Hanson
Greenway Trails: Gary Evans
Highbanks: Patricia Henneforth
Inniswood: Nancy Thomas
Pickerington Ponds: Janet Dowda
Prairie Oaks: Ron Swart
Resource Management: Diane Weeks
Scioto Audubon: Greg Maney
Sharon Woods: Leslie Shortlidge
Slate Run: Herb Wasserstrom
Three Creeks: Beth Jackson
Walnut Woods: Michael Watson