Volunteer Spotlight: May 2022

Amazing Volunteers will be celebrated at the Party for the Parks on June 22. Here’s a look back at friends who’ve made a difference to parks in 2021.

Sharon Shinomiya monitored the Blue Bird Trail in Como Park for 11 years before passing the baton in 2021. “Working the Blue Bird Trail has been a great way to get outdoors and hone my observation skills. Como is a good habitat for Blue Birds, full of wide-open spaces to find insects, but it doesn’t have enough natural homes. The increase in Blue Bird trails with dedicated nesting boxes has really helped them come back from decline. During my years volunteering from 2008-2020, 378 Blue Birds fledged in my boxes and a total of 537 native birds fledged along the trail. I’m happy knowing all those birds had a better chance because of those boxes. This is fun, important work. I find now I enjoy the whole of nature, not just birding. I just love to be outside and observe.”

Norma Herther is a volunteer garden steward with the Ramsey Hill Association. “I love to get my fingers dirty! I help keep up Boyd Park on Selby between Farrington and Virginia. The Association volunteers in six parks: Boyd, Cochran, Summit Overlook, Nathan Hale, McQuillan, and the Holly Tot Lot. Each park has its own garden captain. We have over 50 volunteers – some just come on planting days, some weed and water every week. There’s even a man in the neighborhood who roams the area with his own garbage picker! That really instills pride in the area. The more people who are visible in a neighborhood, the more people you know by name, the safer that neighborhood is.”
“Working in the parks is just the best way to meet people. When you talk with a volunteer out there weeding and realize the gardens are maintained by neighbors, it changes how you view the park. You treat the space differently. We get so many new volunteers every year through people just seeing our volunteers at work. It’s an easy way to get involved.”

Jim Stensvold has spent the last decade volunteering in both Saint Paul Parks and National Parks in the area, mostly focused on restoring native prairies and plantings through events like Restore! and fall “Seed Squads.” “After so many years inside an office, I was looking for opportunities to be outside and to connect with nature as I approached retirement. That’s when I really started to volunteer with both the National Park Service and Saint Paul parks. I have taken out a lot of buckthorn! You can look out at the end of the day and really see the impact you’ve made. When you plant an area, it is wonderful to return through the season and over the years to check on its progress.”

Kay and John Buzza have put in more than 89 hours tending the entrance garden at Phalen Park since 2017. “The work brings so much joy to you and to everyone who sees it. People walking by when we’re working tell us how much they appreciate the gardens. And the park staff is so helpful and responsive. There are some wonderful volunteers at the Dragon Garden and the Poetry Garden. We’ve enjoyed getting to know them as well. It’s wonderful to see how the community takes pride and creates beauty for everyone to enjoy in our parks.”

Please join us on June 22 from 5-7 p.m. at the Phalen Picnic Pavilion to celebrate Volunteers of the Year at the Party for the Parks. Volunteers will be honored from many of the parks “Friends” groups and booster clubs across the city, as well as the winner of the Golden Shovel Award.