Ottawa County Parks Foundation – May 2021 Newsletter
Volunteering in the Parks
by Pete Esser
It’s probably no surprise to you that there is a lot of community support for Ottawa County Parks but did you know that there were hundreds of Ottawa County Parks’ volunteers who logged over 15,000 volunteer hours in the parks in 2019? That total was down a little in 2020 mostly due to COVID-19 restricting many group efforts, but volunteers still did great work mostly on an individual basis this past year. And, this is just the hours that were tracked. Actual volunteer time to support our parks is much, much higher. The involvement of volunteers in Ottawa County Parks is truly amazing.
Ottawa County Parks is committed to offer rewarding volunteer opportunities that not only provide benefits for county parks but also provide for personal growth and development of the volunteer. Volunteers complete important work through a variety of roles such as park monitors, park stewards helping with tasks related to natural resource management, receptionists at the Nature Education Center, assisting with programming and special events. Groups of volunteers help with the Adopt-A-Park program, park work projects, invasive species control and much more. Here are just a few testimonials from volunteers:
I volunteered for the Ottawa County Parks Department with three goals in mind. I needed more exercise. I needed to reconnect with nature as a way to sooth my inner soul. I was seeking another volunteer opportunity that would prove worthwhile for me and the organization I joined. As the volunteer parks photographer, my goals have not only been met but exceeded beyond my expectations.
Prior to joining the parks team, I had volunteered for a number of organizations in the greater-Holland area. Of all those organizations, the Parks Department stands out as one that has perfected the administration of its volunteers. The Parks Department truly treats its volunteers as part of a team that is not overused or underused but is utilized for maximum performance in keeping the parks system safe and clean.
I am ever so proud to represent the parks system as one of those volunteers.
My motivation in volunteering in the parks is to protect the wonderful assets we have in the OC parks that allow mountain biking. A pleasant surprise has been the number of riders, trail runners, etc. willing to support the MEMBA trail days. Folks are looking for opportunities to support their favorite trail, MEMBA is happy to provide that opportunity with the full support of the OC Parks group. It’s a wonderful arrangement.
I wish I had a deep answer that would inspire others. But the truth is that I don’t! I am just an old man who has developed a number of habits; some good, most less so. I developed walking as a habit twenty or so years ago. I found that walking in the woods was relaxing and invigorating. When I worked full time, I found that the Ottawa County Parks offered me a place to walk, to meditate, and to let off steam. When I retired over a decade ago, I read that the Parks were looking for volunteer park monitors. So I checked into it. After a back-ground check, they allowed me to sign up. The only skill I had to offer was that I walked and was willing to walk in the parks on a regular basis. I was assigned to the Van Buren Dunes as a Park Monitor. So I began to do a weekly walk at VBD. And it became a habit. And some habits are hard to break. I volunteer with the Parks out of habit, one of my better ones. And it keeps me out of jail!
Board Member, Friends of Ottawa County Parks
Ottawa County Parks’ volunteers often become even more involved and supportive of the Ottawa County Parks by also financially supporting the Ottawa County Parks Foundation. Did you know that since the Parks Foundation was formed in 2016, nearly $8 million has been raised to support land acquisitions and major parks improvements that would have not been otherwise possible?
So, join us if you haven’t already! Become a volunteer for the parks as well as support the parks financially through tax-deductible donations to Ottawa County Parks Foundation. We believe preserving and supporting access to our natural areas adds so much to the quality of life we enjoy in Ottawa County today as well as for future generations.
The Park Sustainers Club is a unique group of donors whose monthly investment allows us to complete special projects that can’t be accomplished within the County Parks’ budget, like building trail connections, adding land, and upgrading facilities. Choice a monthly donation that works best with your budget.
Riley Trails is 300 acres of rolling terrain, beech-maple forest, pine plantations, a small lake and an extensive trail system located in Park Township. The property is enjoyed by hikers, cross-country skiers, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.