Volunteer Spotlight: Volunteers of the Year

Here are just some of the outstanding parks volunteers who will be celebrated at Party for the Parks on June 21. 

2023 Parks Volunteer of the Year: Pat Owen 

Pat tends two very different gardens at Como Park – the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom and the Historic Streetcar Station area. From staying on top of the invasive species and litter to completely replanting the slopes along the historic pedestrian bridge with native grasses, Pat creates beauty we can all enjoy.

Golden Shovel Award: Marjorie Abrams 

Margie has been a driving force for the completion of a new playground at the park to serve the area’s many families, including the children who attend the nearby Somali daycare and Montessori school. As our “eyes on the park,” she was instrumental in making design choices for a structure that serves a broader range of children by age, interest, and ability while increasing park safety. Margie actively works with the City to address graffiti, vehicle damage, and other repairs.

Como Park: Ann Marie Rogers

Ann Marie Rogers retired as an esteemed mental health practitioner in 2005 and has been a Como Park Conservatory volunteer ever since. Ann Marie is a dedicated gardener at the Como Park Conservatory and also at her home. She is an outstanding cook who prepares meals with the help of ingredients that are home grown, and rarely shows up to a family event without a bouquet of flowers picked from her own garden. Ann Marie’s expertise and passion for nature radiates through her valued and committed volunteerism of over seventeen years.

Friends of the Parks and Trails of St Paul and Ramsey County: Scott Ramsay 

Currently, President of Friends of the Parks and Trails, Scott has been a long-serving board member and volunteer. His deep knowledge of public lands and trails across the county has paid off as an advocate for preservation, conservation, and thoughtful trail development.

Mears Park: Judy and Larry Wick 

Judy and Larry are a dynamic duo filled with 60 garden plots in Meras Park. Tireless gardeners (Larry claims he’s just the muscle), they plant and maintain gardens, give generously to park efforts, and can wrangle hoses and garden equipment like nobody’s business. Their enthusiasm and willingness to help new gardeners are catching – bringing new and renewed energy to Lowertown’s unique park and event space.

Midway Peace Park: Jenny Keyser 

Jenny has advocated unfailing devotion for the park within the City of Saint Paul, Union Park District Council’s Neighborhood Sustainability and Vitality Committee, and as a Friends of Midway Peace Park member. She also joined Hamline Midway Coalition for Park Clean Up on Earth Day. We are all so thankful for her work; she has had a tremendous impact.

Pedro Park: Julie Printz 

As the founder of Friends of Pedro Park, Julie has been tenacious as an advocate for the park and its expansion. In addition to attending countless community engagement sessions over the last decade of park planning, she created a detailed report to the City to make a case for tearing down the vacant Public Safety Annex to expand the park.

Phalen Park St. Paul – Changsha China Friendship Garden: Mike Stapleton 

Mike was our go-to “Garden Watering Man.” He was available, often at the drop of a hat, for the critical task of watering the Garden during the last two years of summer drought and did, on more than one occasion, take on the whole task on himself, setting up the pump, laying out the hoses, and cords, filling the tank, then watering the Pines, Maples, and Peonies, and the Princess Kay Plums.

Ramsey Hill Association: Dan Gartrell 

Dan is an extraordinary volunteer at McQuillan Park in the Ramsey Hill neighborhood. He has been such an anchor for all the volunteers at the park, leading spring planting days and fall clean up.

Saint Paul Garden Club: Gretchen Cudak 

Gretchen serves as Rice Park Committee chairperson, bringing enthusiasm, leadership skills, and impeccable design sensibilities. Our club is always so excited to see what design Gretchen will create for the Rice Park urns. Gretchen creates a watercolor template for her designs, which are always so beautiful. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and many members commit to volunteering in Rice Park for plantings and maintenance because of her.  

Swede Hollow Park: Karin DuPaul 

Founder of the Friends of Swede Hollow, the Upper Bluff section of the park would only exist today with Karin’s vision and advocacy. She shows up at every volunteer event in the park to clear buckthorn, pick up trash, and help with the annual Art in the Hollow festival. Her passion and tenacity have served the park for 50 years.

Upper Landing Park: Lynn Cibuzar 

Lynn is one of the two original park volunteers left from 10 years ago to have consistently volunteered at Upper Landing. She is also the liaison for our Friends group from one of our four buildings/blocks and helps to raise funds for our gardens and flower baskets along the river. In addition, she does both our group workdays and adopts her own garden. Lynn is a can-do volunteer with an upbeat spirit that positively influences others.

Wacouta Commons Park: Franco Guerro 

Franco put in 585 hours in the park last year. He was there daily and nightly doing various gardening chores with Beaux, his dog, who patrolled. He planted annuals and perennials; divided and replanted daylilies and hostas; transplanted donated plants; watered hanging baskets, trees, and flower beds nearly every night; pruned rose bushes; detailed the park’s paths and the dog poo area; spread mulch around trees and garden beds; and picked up dog poo!

Inspired? Volunteer in Saint Paul parks! From Wildlife Monitors to Park and Garden Stewards, there are ways to make a difference that connect you to nature. Learn more!

Photo caption: Volunteer Mike Stapleton at the St. Paul – Changsha China Friendship Garden