CA Receives ODNR Cardinal Award

2021CardinalAward - Fran DeWine, Katryn Renard, Mary Mertz, Steve Gray
2021CardinalAward - Fran DeWine, Katryn Renard, Mary Mertz, Steve Gray
Katryn Renard receives the Cardinal Award. L to R: Fran DeWine (Ohio First Lady), Katryn Renard, Mary Mertz (Director, ODNR), Steve Gray (Asst Director, ODNR)
2021 Cardinal Award - Katryn Renard with volunteers
Mary Mertz (Director ODNR), Katryn Renard, and happy Service in the Preserves volunteers!

Columbus Audubon is proud to receive the 2021 Cardinal Award from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources! This award is presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions to conservation in Ohio, and was given this year to CA in special recognition of our Service in the Preserves program.

Here’s the award citation from ODNR:

Since March 1982, the Columbus Audubon Society’s Service in the Preserves program has been maintaining and protecting Ohio’s nature preserves with a team of dedicated volunteers. This team of volunteers performs essential maintenance, renovation, and construction that keeps these preserves accessible and beautiful. Under the umbrella of the Columbus Audubon Society, the Service in the Preserves program does not require membership—just volunteers with a willingness and passion to for conservation projects in Ohio’s nature preserves. Several volunteers have remained dedicated since the program’s founding in 1982. From 2018 to 2020, Service in the Preserves volunteers completed 1,400 hours of work that included removing invasive species, tree plantings, constructing new trails, boardwalks, and stairs, and other maintenance projects.

Katryn Renard, founder and long time coordinator of the Service in the Preserves program, accepted the award for Columbus Audubon. Here are her remarks:

Thank you.  This was an unexpected honor.  We are both humbled and proud, somehow all at the same moment, to receive this award.

Will all the members of the Audubon worktrip group please stand?  Please raise your hand if you’ve been part of it since the beginning.

Forty years ago, I did not know what a State Nature Preserve (SNP) was.  Now, I realize it is responsible for the deep appreciation I have for the beauty of Ohio.  Forty years ago, I mentioned to Jim Davidson, then President of Columbus Audubon (CA), that I was looking for a group of people to go out and plant trees, cut trails, and build bridges.  Jim knew that CA did not have such a group, so he suggested we contact the then fledgling Division of Natural Areas and Preserves (DNAP).  I soon found myself in a meeting with Guy Denny of DNAP and the three of us, under the direction of Chief Dick Mosely, formed a partnership between CA and DNAP.

And so it started.  People willingly gave up their Saturdays and some Sundays, month after month, to help in the SNPs.  It was great.  We panted trees, cut trails, and built bridges and even steps.  Invasive species were not on our list of things to worry about; they are now, of course.  And those bridges and steps we built over twenty-five years ago?  We’ve replaced some of them.

We did it because it was fun.  But something happened along the way.  We learned about the SNPs and their importance.  If you spend a day working in a preserve, you come to know it and you become attached to it.  For us, the trips have fostered a lasting and loyal appreciation of the SNPs.

I’d like to pause here and give a shout out to our leader, Natalia Nekrasova.  She is doing a fantastic job!  One of her efforts is to attract new members.  I was thinking about how we have gotten new members in the past.  I realized there are four ways.  The first, and biggest, is through our newsletter.

The second is being born into it.  Terry and Ann Smith put their kids in backpacks and brought them on the trips.  Now their granddaughter, a toddler, has been coming.

The third way is to marry into the worktrips.  I was dating Bruce; he got the girl, and the worktrips were part of the package.  He quickly became a much-needed sounding board for me.  He also drove the van full of worktrippers to the preserves for many years until we had to stop that practice last year.

The fourth way we have gotten members is for them to work into it.  Jill Kasai worked for DNAP as our coordinator in the office.  She was great to work with and was especially proactive in assuring that our trips flowed smoothly.  When she retired, she gave up being paid to work with us and joined the group as a volunteer.

An important group of people to us is the preserve managers.  They give up their Saturdays for us; they are always pleasant and happy to see us and are always prepared for us.  They also let us know how much they appreciate our work.

We are rewarded on many levels simply by attending the worktrips.  But this award is lovely and makes us that much more proud to work in our State Nature Preserves.

Thank you.