Approximately 60 Dane County Parks staff, Foundation for Dane County Parks members, and Park Friends and Partners group members attended the 2020 Dane County Parks Volunteer Networking Summit on March 7, 2020, at Lussier Family Heritage Center. The gathering, which was held more than two weeks before Wisconsin’s stay at home order, began with an introduction by Dave Ripp, Chair of the Dane County Park Commission, and Annaliese Eicher, County Board Chair.
"I've seen the amount of work done by our Dane County Parks staff and the people in this room -- the Friends groups -- and I'm grateful to you for the time you spend in our county parks. I look forward to making parks a priority," Annaliese said.
Darren Marsh, Dane County Parks Director, introduced all of the Land and Water Resources Department and parks staff. Rhea Stangel-Maier, Dane County Parks Volunteer Coordinator, stated that 4,259 volunteers with the 18 Friends groups and Partners contributed 66,755.75 hours to the county parks in 2019, a value of over $1.6 million.
Bill Lunney and Caryl Terrell gave an overview of the Foundation for Dane County Parks and Friends of Dane County Parks Endowment grants. Several Friends groups that received the first year of grants had their photos taken with Foundation board members and a giant presentation check.
Friends groups and other park Partner groups in attendance also had the opportunity to present a quick “3-minute, 3-slide” overview of their major projects and accomplishments over the past year. Parks staff also passed out surveys and set up flip charts to encourage volunteers to connect by writing down their contact information and what they can help with or need help with.
The afternoon concluded with roundtable discussions about the following topics: agriculture in parks, grants available through the county and Foundation, restoration and land management policies and procedures, and resources or training needed by Friends and Partner groups.
"We are in the 'golden age of parks' (with the county), and we need to take advantage of that to support our volunteer and Friends groups - our most valuable assets," Bill said.
Park Friends and Partners Highlights
- Anderson Park Friends donated 380 pounds of onions to the Oregon Area Food Pantry in 2019 from one of the park's gardens.
- Friends of Cam-Rock Park shared the progress of the water monitoring team and linkage of the Glacial Drumlin and CamRock Trails.
- Capital Off Road Pathfinders said that all youth bike teams have a volunteer component at Seminole or CamRock parks, so they learn at an early age that the trails don't take care of themselves.
- Friends of Capital Springs Recreation Area described the Prairie Learning Center project;
- Friends of Festge Park showed impressive before and after photos of maintenance projects, the park’s biggest challenge.
- Friends of Lake Kegonsa Society encouraged other parks to create a Monarch way station;
- Friends of Lake View Hill Park improved its stormwater retention ponds and plans to plant chestnut trees on the slope.
- Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy is celebrating the county’s purchase of 160 acres to the north and the nonprofit’s 25th anniversary in 2020.
- Prairie Moraine Friends spent an estimated 300 hours to clear invasive species from an east-facing slope in 2019 and shared the news of becoming a 501(c)(3) in 2020.
- Friends of Schumacher Farm Park, held a grand opening for the Center for Rural History in July 2019.
- Friends of Silverwood Park partnered with the Savanna Institute to create a 20-acre agroforestry demonstration area.
- Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited stabilized stream banks after clearing brush.
- Friends of Stewart Park is focusing on outreach efforts to neighbors of the park since 140 homes surround the park and 500 or more homes are within two blocks of the park.
- Friends of Wisdom Prairie has restored over 125 acres of prairie, and 60 acres are now owned by Dane County.