In the summer of 2001, Cuyahoga Valley National Park applied to the National Park Foundation for a grant to start a Volunteer Senior Ranger Horps. After receiving the grant, CVNP began recruiting Northeast Ohioan aged 50 and older to be trained by park staff. These volunteers would take on smaller projects in the park — such as trail maintenance or landscaping the park's historic properties — and also mentor and educate "Junior Rangers" about the environment through hands-on activities.
Dave Herbster was one of the first to sign up for the Corps. A retired Cleveland schoolteacher, he sees the Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps as a win-win for him: "I like the idea of doing something good for the park — and working with youth, too," he says.
To date, 105 seniors have signed on with the Corps, spending more than 2,900 hours to bring several projects to life. They've written and produced a Senior Ranger training manual illustrated by one Senior Ranger who's an artist; taken over the year-round maintenance of six park trails; and coordinated and staffed a summertime fishing program that had Cleveland- and Akron-area youth hooking fish at the same time they were getting hooked on the outdoors.
"[VSRC is] providing opportunities to seniors to learn more about the park. It's allowing them to share conservation values and ethics with the younger generation," says park spokesperson Mary Pat Doorley.
"It's also a great way to get out and socialize," Herbster notes with a chuckle.
Next year, the CVNPµhopes to expand the Corps to include more volunteers interested in trail maintenance, removing invasive plants and working with Junior Rangers to expand the summer fishing program.
If you'd like to sign up, contact the volunteer office at Cuyahoga Valley National Park at 1-800-433-1986 or the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Summit County at (330) 762-8645.