By Natalia Nekrasova
Do you know that Service in the Preserves and Columbus Audubon are one? I did not understand that Service in the Preserves (SIP) is a part of Columbus Audubon (CA), when I started volunteering with the SIP group. We worked at the state nature preserves all around Ohio and communicated with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) staff. We signed up ODNR volunteer forms and traveled in ODNR vehicles during our trips. Meanwhile, the connection between SIP and CA was not evident to me, and I remember being a little surprised, when we were referred to as Columbus Audubon volunteers and when our trip schedule was published at the CA website.
Things became clear, when I learned the full SIP story. It goes back to 1980s, when CA chapter member Katryn Renard, inspired by the idea of giving back to nature, started a program of work trips to Ohio Nature Preserves. The program was called Service in the Preserves. It focused on a collaboration with the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, and over years attracted many volunteers not affiliated with CA. While being seemingly independent, SIP always kept its ties with CA and used its resources and infrastructure. When I got involved in coordinating SIP trips, I quickly learned to address and resolve my numerous questions with CA, and appreciated the support that CA provides as a parent organization.
If you are not familiar with SIP, this is what it is. SIP is a part of CA, similar to other well-known programs like Avid Birders and Birdathon. We are a group of volunteers dedicated to preservation of wildlife habitats. In practice, we work at the State nature preserves assisting preserve managers with maintenance and renovation projects. We are called upon for construction and repair of trails, steps, bridges, observation decks, boardwalks, and signs. We work a lot on removing invasive vegetation and cleaning-up projects. We plant trees and offer extra hands to preserve managers for other tasks.
A lot have been accomplished during SIP’s 30+ years of existence, but even more help is needed. These days a dedicated volunteer force is crucial for maintaining the Ohio nature preserve system. If the idea of contributing to preservation of natural resources is appealing to you, consider joining SIP. Our trips are much more than just work assignments. We explore new places and learn about wildlife, meet new people and gain new friends, we experience the pride of personal contribution and accomplishments, and enjoy being outside and in harmony with nature. Sounds interesting? Check out our calendar and sign up for our next work trip.