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People of the Preserves: May 2021

The Forest Preserves boasts a large network of volunteers doing incredible work all across the County like restoring habitatmonitoring plant and animal populationspatrolling 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.

David Cohen in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
Photo by Kris DaPra.

David Cohen

“When I started running twenty years ago, I didn’t like the treadmill so I started running at the Skokie Lagoons since I worked nearby. Then I started running along the North Branch Trail where I would see the volunteer signs for Trail Watch and decided to join.  

“I used to listen to music when I ran, but it sucks your sensory focus from the colors, the smells and the sounds of the woods. I was in the office so much, I needed to totally unplug. I call it active meditation. Sometimes it’s not what you would call an ideal day—low humidity, clear sky, etcetera—but each day has its own personality, so every day is good. In the spring, I look for the people I saw the year before. Especially the elderly people. I look out for them and I want to see that they are in good health.  

“Volunteering out here kind of goes back to philosophy. You could ask yourself, are you going to be somebody who uses something, somebody who contributes, or somebody who leads? If something is valuable, you want to treat it like it is, and leave it in better condition. I figure, I use the preserves a lot, and to me they are incredibly valuable so I want to do something to protect them. I try to stay away from jargon, but volunteering is good for personal development. It also stimulates perpetual learning and I think it’s good to expand or change the way you see the world. Meeting other people helps, too.” 

Lauren Lype next to a river in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
Photo by Kris DaPra.

Lauren Lype

“This is my second year with the Conservation Corps. I like the sense of community when you do these projects, even though with social distancing this year it was harder to get to know each other in the beginning. But you’re still involved with a bunch of people who have the same interests and passions as you. You don’t feel like you’re trying to make a change by yourself. I’ve enjoyed learning about plants most of all. I’m interested in knowing more about how plants were used for medicinal purposes before we created all these pharmaceutical companies. I think I’ve also grown a new appreciation for mushrooms because our leader talks about them a lot. 

“If you’re apprehensive about getting out in nature, start with your backyard or your front lawn even if it’s just a lot of grass. You’ll find a lot more than you think. If you go out after a rainy day, you might find some mushrooms. If you go out at night, you’re going to find crickets. You’re surrounded by nature wherever you are, even if it’s just opening your window and staring outside. You’re likely to find something you love about nature.” 

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!