Volunteer of the Year Awards
The Volunteer of the Year Awards recognizes outstanding National Public Lands Day and Tribal Lands Day volunteers who went above and beyond to make this year's event a success.
The Volunteer of the Year Awards looks for personal stories describing the efforts of a dedicated public or tribal lands volunteer in their community. This should be a person who has taken a leadership role to preserve and enhance a public or tribal land area and encourage others to do the same. New nominations will be accepted starting after National Public Lands Day 2013.
2012 Volunteer of the Year Awardees
(Listed in alphabetical order)
Public Land Site: Lynden Hill - Milwaukee Urban Tree House, Milwaukee, Wisc.
"Diane Kosarzycki has embraced the need and importance of creating and strengthening the connection between urban residents and nature. Her dedication to the residents of this neighborhood and the Milwaukee Urban Tree House make her an invaluable volunteer and collaborator." - Kate Carney, Education Assistant, Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful
Covering an entire city block in Milwaukee is the Urban Tree House at Lynden Hill, a green space where local residents and children can learn about nature and play in a safe environment. Lynden Hill is one of the five U.S. Forest Service Urban Tree House Sites in the country and is located in the center of a vibrant and diverse urban neighborhood. Throughout the year, the Urban Tree House receives a lot of visitors and National Public Lands Day has become the signature event to beautify the park and clean the facility before the winter months.
Diane Kosarzycki committed many hours in planning and marketing the 2012 National Public Lands Day clean up and celebration at the Urban Tree House. Diane recruited volunteers to help her distribute flyers and talked with neighbors to convey the importance of the Urban Tree House for the neighborhood and city. She was a key volunteer on the day of the event in set-up and tear-down, registration of participants and as a skilled photographer to document the hard work of the volunteers. Her enthusiasm and dedication was the reason many people came out to volunteer on NPLD. Diane also assisted the U.S. Forest Service to teach local children Leave No Trace principles and was a central figure in creating an atmosphere where every individual was welcome and appreciated.
Public Land Site: Cahuilla Hills / Homme-Adams Park, Palm Desert, Calif.
"Ada treats every day as if it were National Public Lands Day." "She inspires us all to be better stewards, teachers and people. Thank you, Ada!" - Jennifer Prado, Conservation Lands Manager, Friends of the Desert Mountains
The turnout was so strong at the Cahuilla Hills / Homme-Adams Park event for National Public Lands Day 2012 that Ada Nuckels decided to add an additional project to the day's work activities. She led a volunteer project to hand-pull invasive fountain grass from the Carrizo Canyon Ecological Reserve, which is part of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. This area is open to the public (and volunteers) only 3 months of the year due to the sensitivity of the endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep to human presence.
Ada has worked for years on removing invasive plants from this site. She is tireless in her efforts to restore sheep habitat to its natural state; single-handedly pulling hundreds of bags of weeds out of the canyon over the years. Ada also spends countless volunteer hours educating youth about the natural environment by leading interpretive hikes for the public and assisting staff in critical endangered species research.
Public Land Site: Stillhouse Hollow Falls State Natural Area, Summertown, Tenn.
"The 100's of people a year that visit this site owe a great deal of gratitude to Rick and his unselfishness and resourcefulness. Stillhouse Hollow is subject to a great deal of trail erosion, littering and vandalism. Without Rick's help, these problems would be much worse than they are currently." - Allan J. Trently, West Tennessee Stewardship Ecologist, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Rick volunteers at the Stillhouse Hollow Falls State Natural Area through his service as a member of the Tennessee Trails Association. He works tirelessly to create new trails and construct bridges, boardwalks and steps. Rick brings his experience as a professional carpenter to natural areas and parks, and without his help, progress would be more costly and much slower. For some projects there would be no progress at all. On National Public Lands Day, Rick was the lead person on several volunteer projects.
Rick is integral to the planning and construction for each project he is a part of. He has bought and transported tools and lumber, helped carry heavy equipment down the trail and has been the lead person on the construction of the bridge and the three sets of steps needed at Stillhouse. He even takes time off from work to make sure projects are completed. After visiting the park for a hike or family outing, Rick often reports sightings of problems or trees down on the trails.
Public Land Site: Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, St. Paul, Minn.
"Kinnell is an exceptional volunteer. He is personable and works well with other volunteers, is dependable, learns new material quickly and is professional in his approach to volunteering. Above all his enthusiasm for improving the Mississippi River through adjacent land improvement is contagious to other volunteers." - Kathleen Swenson, Volunteer Coordinator, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, National Park Service
In 2012, Kinnell Tackett volunteered more than 200 hours with the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. He serves as a volunteer crew leader with the responsibility of assisting park rangers in leading habitat restoration projects for volunteer groups. This position requires hours of training in how to work with groups, safety and interpretation. Between May and November, Kinnell worked at 25 different habitat restoration events and assisted 835 volunteers. That is on top of his full time job, family and additional volunteer service in the community!
When the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area acquired a new parcel of land, the Coldwater Spring unit, Kinnell was among the first to volunteer to improve the site. His enthusiasm and drive resulted in him leading buckthorn removal efforts once a week for three months without a ranger. The group he organized was called the “Monday Night Crew”. When a park goal was set to remove buckthorn from a three acre grove of oak trees prior to the Coldwater Spring unit’s official opening, Kinnell’s Monday Night Crew jumped into high gear!
Kinnell was one of the volunteer crew leaders during the National Public Lands Day tree and wetland planting event. While other crew leaders worked with a ranger, Kinnell’s knowledge, confidence and ability to lead a group independently freed staff to work with other volunteers that day.
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