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Published: Thursday, 8/28/2003

Volunteer patrol to be expanded by Metroparks

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Volunteers may begin riding bicycles on portions of the University-Parks Trail and the Wabash-Cannonball Trail next year, she added.

The program has 37 members who have provided assistance to visitors at Wildwood this year and reminded them of the rules to be followed while in the park.

Joe Fausnaugh, an Oak Openings ranger who ran the program said, “We had high hopes for it when it started, but it has far exceeded what we thought it could be.

“Almost every program you start you expect snags, but there just haven't been any.”

The public and the professional staff at Wildwood have been nothing but complimentary toward the volunteers and their work since they began patrols in mid-May, the ranger said.

Volunteer Jack Mayer said that much of the credit should go to the initial training that prepared the volunteers for different circumstances they might find while patrolling the trails.

“It was very detailed, and it was also helpful that a ranger went with each of us on our first walk,” he said.

He said the satisfaction of the job has far outweighed any problems that he has encountered.

Mr. Mayer said he particularly was taken with an elderly Asian couple whom he met at the park, and who bowed their thanks to him after he explained the volunteers' role.

One of the only problems he has encountered is when he came upon a man walking on a high tree limb.

“I told him to come down, but he said he had great balance.

“I suggested that he could try that in his own yard, but not in the park.”

When the man remained on the limb, Mr. Mayer told him the next thing he'd say would be giving a report by two-way radio to a ranger. The man came down.

Mr. Fausnaugh said all of the volunteers are trained not to get into a confrontation with a park visitor.

They all are equipped with a two-way radio and a cell phone and are told to contact a park ranger if any contact with the public seems to be approaching a confrontation.

Mr. Fausnaugh said that part of the selection process for volunteers included a hypothetical situation that was becoming confrontational.

“We didn't indicate what the right response was, we just wanted to know how the person would handle the situation.

“The right response was to call a ranger. We don't want people who are going to argue and maybe escalate a situation,” he said.

The patrol volunteers are trained in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and are given courses by naturalists to familiarize them with the natural habitat of the park.

Mark Pahl, a member of the patrol, said that on his first day he was asked by a visitor to identify a flower.

“We had been taught by a naturalist and I remembered what it was,” he recalled with pride.

Mr. Pahl said he has enjoyed the metroparks since he was a youngster and sees his work on the trail patrol as a way of contributing to the system.

The two most frequent offenses that volunteers report are walkers on unmarked trails and bicyclists on dirt trails.

The latter usually are people trying a short cut through the rear property of Stranahan Elementary School, the ranger said.

Mr. Fausnaugh said volunteers must be in reasonably good physical condition, because they are expected to be out on the trail for most of the 3-hour time blocks scheduled for patrols. They commit to patrolling for 60 hours in the period that runs from May to May.

Mr. Mayer enjoys backpacking and mountain climbing, and so “this is a walk in the park for me,” he said with a laugh.

Mr. Fausnaugh said that if the patrol is expanded to the trails of Wildwood and Oak Openings, a four-hour training course on bicycles probably would be added to the training.

“Eventually we would like to have bicycle patrols, cross-country ski patrols, and horse patrols at Oak Openings,” he said.



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