The Columbus Audubon Service in the Preserves program turned 30 years old in March of 2012. The following is an interview with Katryn Renard, who was the original driving force behind the service program.
Q. How did the program originate?
A. As a member of Columbus Audubon, I kept going on fun field trips but wondered when we were going to do something to “give back.” While on a gunless pheasant hunt at the home of Louise and John Warner, I asked Jim Davidson, “When’s your next work trip?” His answer was, “When you start them.” So, Jim contacted Guy Denney, who was heading up the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, and the three of us started up the service program.
Q. Where was the first trip held?
A. We went to Clifton Gorge and planted trees. We had quite a few participants on that trip, and we stopped at Young’s Dairy for ice cream on the way home. A tradition was born – the work trips and stopping for ice cream on the way home.
Q. What’s a typical service trip like?
A. No experience is required, and you work as hard as you want. We build trails and boardwalks, and clear trails and invasive species. That’s what we’ve been doing all along. You don’t need any tools, the ODNR will provide them. And ODNR provides the transportation as well. We take a lunch and are home by 5 p.m. the same day, except twice a year when we go for two days. The work is punctuated by nature breaks. Someone yells, “Nature break!”, and everyone goes to see what’s been discovered. Recently at Rockbridge Nature Preserve, a beautiful skink was accomodating enough to stay put until everyone came by and had a good look. It’s a great learning experience to see what is out there through the seasons.
Q. What qualities do you have to possess to be service tripper?
A. We’re just people who like to be outside accomplishing something. The group has changed over the years, with people coming and going. One family, the Smith’s, has grown up on the work trips. Mom and dad (Terry and Ann) and daughter Dori have been coming since Dori was a baby. Now the other children (Laura, Eileen and Ken) participate too. Some other long-time participants include Jim Davidson, Kathy Bruner, Doug Bliss, Emily Eby, Mark Baranowsk, and me of course.
Q. To what do you attribute the longevity of the Service in the Preserves program?
A. I think it’s people with a common goal helping the preserve managers do what they can’t do alone. And traditions like nature breaks and ice cream stops help too.
Q. Why should Columbus Audubon chapter members consider becoming work service volunteers?
A. Because it’s fun working side-by-side to give something back, to help maintain our beautiful natural areas. There’s a difference between hiking through an area and actually stopping and working in the area to help maintain its natural state. Once at Lake Kathryn I walked back and forth carrying materials over the same carpet of fallen autumn leaves. I never tired of the sights and sounds. It just got better every trip. And, it’s great to be able to go into state nature preserves that aren’t open to the public.