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.
“My friend who knew I loved being out in the woods told me that there was a sign at the Des Plaines library for stewardship workdays at Kloempken [Prairie]. That was about 12 years ago. I showed up and have been coming back ever since. I love coming here and I talk about it all the time so everybody I know, knows, that I’m the person to talk to about the Forest Preserves of Cook County. I feel like I take a lot from the Earth and there is kind of a guilt from taking, and taking, and taking. It’s kind of an empty feeling after a while if you keep taking. When I contribute, when I give back, when I come and do something for this natural area, it helps restore balance.”
“I’ve been part of Trail Watch for about five months. I was looking for someplace to volunteer and I enjoy being out in the woods, just walking. I enjoy nature. I hadn’t had a lot of time to do that in my business career with a family and all that. This was a perfect opportunity. The other thing I like about it is that I can do it when I want to do it. I don’t have to show up at eight o’clock somewhere, or at a particular time every week. I can fit it in where I have time. And I have time. My wife and I first retired out to north central Arizona and I spent a lot of time in avocational archaeology and that got me out in the back country, so using a GPS, using a compass and maps, and walking kind of fit in. I’ll occasionally, when I have an opportunity, ask people if they’ve seen some sort of problem along the trail and that will sometimes elicit an actual response of ‘Yes, I saw this or saw that’. That’s only happened a couple of times but I normally try to make eye contact with everybody and say ‘Hello’ and let them know that somebody’s here.”
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 all throughout 2019. 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!