The Forest Preserves boasts a large network of volunteers doing incredible work all across the County like restoring habitat, monitoring plant and animal populations, patrolling our trails, supporting special events and so much more. Though many volunteers fly solo, like Trail Watch volunteers, or work in small groups, like stewardship volunteers, each individual belongs to this larger, like-minded community of people who love nature and care for the Preserves.
“I frequently walk in Busse Woods, and one day I saw a sign along the path for Trail Watch. Joining was sort of a no-brainer. I very much consider myself a nature lover. I find peace from being outside and try to be outside as much as possible for relaxation or exercise. I’ve been retired now for over a year, so I can go to the preserves every day, weather permitting.
“There are so many interesting things to see—the leaves changing in the fall, different birds, and the water. Just last month I saw a swan on Busse Lake and it knocked my socks off. It was my first time seeing one outside of a corporate campus. Schaumburg’s Sculpture Park has swans and I had been waiting for the cygnets to be born. I was enthralled with them, so coming to Busse and seeing a swan swimming around was exciting!
“I think of volunteering as giving back. I’m fortunate to be able to enjoy these places that require some level of maintenance. The forest preserves are free and I’m out walking all the time anyway, so being the extra set of eyes feels like the least I can do for the enjoyment that I get from being out there. Volunteering in the preserves is fun. It’s beautiful. You’re communing with Mother Nature and she’s always changing. You can come to the same place and see something different day to day let alone season to season.”
“I’m half Eastern Shoshone. My mother and grandmother were full-blooded. On my dad’s side, his whole family in Norway were Sámi people, best known for reindeer herding. Because of my native heritage, I look at nature a little differently.
“I joined Trail Watch because I thought it was a good way to give back. Trail Watch volunteers are the eyes and ears in the preserves. We help protect our natural areas by being a deterrent. People see us in our bright shirts and maybe they think twice about doing something wrong. I walk the paved trail first, and then I’ll walk the interior trails where folks go when they don’t want you to see them unleash their dogs. I check the bathrooms before I leave to make sure everything’s ok. Sometimes people just come up and thank me for being out here. I get a lot of smiles, or people just asking for directions.
“There are times when there are lulls. It’s quiet and there’s not much going on. If I’m someplace where there’s a body of water, I like to be close to it because water is sacred. I’ll take that time to relax at a picnic table and think about things that are important to me, and just give my respect back to the land.”
Inspired by the photo blog Humans of New York, Kris DaPra and Joanna Huyck of the Volunteer Resources team will be working together to introduce you to your fellow volunteers. You’ll get to know the names and faces of the people (like you) without whom the preserves could simply not exist. We hope that you’ll enjoy this ongoing project, and we look forward to interviewing YOU at an upcoming workday, on your monitoring route, during your Trail Watch patrol or anywhere else you make a difference. Thank you for being a volunteer!