Help wanted: Parratt rounds up volunteers for county park district PDF Print E-mail
Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor   
Saturday, 24 August 2013 08:04
Wood County Park District Volunteer Coordinator Lori Parratt at the J.C. Reuthinger Memorial Preserve near Owens Community College. (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
There's no lack of things volunteers can do to help the Wood County Park District take care of its facilities and help with programs.
The challenge for Lori Parratt is finding enough volunteers to keep up with the "to-do list."
"Our volunteers help us to get things done more quickly. Things our full-time staff of 22 could never get done in 19 parks," Parratt said. "Volunteers provide the enthusiasm and physical energy to help us accomplish our mission."
Parratt became the district's first full-time volunteer coordinator in 2009 and has since added "marketing specialist" to her responsibilities.
During 2012 volunteers logged 5,756 hours, more than four times the 1,258 hours logged in 2005. The number of volunteers has increased from 48 to more than 580.
Parratt said volunteers are found among all age groups.
"We have some younger volunteers who see it as a one-time opportunity and go home. We have retirees who have a longer view, showing up weekly on one or more projects, but then sometimes young people stay involved. It works either way," she said.  "The challenge these days is finding people with enough time left in their days to help out."
She said families also get involved, maybe adopting a park, which gives everyone from a toddler to a grandparent a chance to get involved. "These people help us keep an eye on the parks."
Although records don't exist beyond a few years ago, she knows of several people who have been volunteering with the district for decades. The park district dates to the 1930s but has experienced rapid growth in the past 25 years. There are parks in all parts of the county and development is under way at several sites.
Volunteers also help out with special park events and also come in the form of Cub and Boy Scouts and advanced Scouts looking for projects to complete their Eagle rank. Volunteers can also learn to do stream monitoring at two sites in the Maumee River or help care for the native plant nursery at Reuthinger Preserve on Oregon Road. The nursery provides plants and seeds for native plant restoration at several park sites.
On Sept. 7 the district will participate in STEM at the Park, a program to promote kids' interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The event will be held at Bowling Green State University's Perry Fieldhouse.
There will also be booths at other BGSU and Owens Community College events to promote the park and seek volunteers.
In 2012 Parratt introduced the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist Program to the district in an effort to bolster long-term volunteers especially interested in helping work with the public and provide public programs. OCVN is under the auspices of the Ohio State University Extension Service. Parratt completed the OCVN program in Lucas County several years ago and thought it would be a good fit here.
She believes the program has the potential to be especially helpful as the district restores and puts the Carter-Loomis Farm on Carter Road near Zimmerman School into service. The farm will offer a look at farming life in Wood County in the early part of the 20th Century.
"The OCVN's understand the need for removing invasive plant species and interpreting nature for others," she said.
The OCVN certification requires 40 hours of class time (some indoors and some outdoors), a written exam and 40 hours of volunteer work.
Other marketing efforts include a variety of brochures about the parks and a new comprehensive fold-up map that shows park locations on one side and provides photos and provides brief descriptions on the flip side.
At the Wood County Fair the district's tent logged nearly 8,500 visitors. While one attraction was free popcorn, there were play areas for youngsters, displays and a chance to see two native species, a garter snake and a box turtle. Staff and volunteers often take the animals out of the cages to provide visitors a closer look and talk about why leaving the animals in the wild is important.

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