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Published: Monday, 8/29/2005

Metroparks cheerleader rarely tires

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The quiet and serenity of Wildwood Preserve Metropark offer Jack Gallon an opportunity to collect his thoughts while enjoying the outdoors. The quiet and serenity of Wildwood Preserve Metropark offer Jack Gallon an opportunity to collect his thoughts while enjoying the outdoors.
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Whenever Jack Gallon has thinking to do, he does it in Wildwood Preserve Metropark.

There, under a canopy of trees and to the accompaniment of songbirds, Mr. Gallon walks. And there, while picking up trash left behind by others, he collects his thoughts.

His daily two-mile trek through the most visited park in the Toledo Area Metroparks is just one of the many connections Mr. Gallon, 75, has with nature. His connections run so deep, in fact, that the local labor attorney is being honored for his years of service that have benefited parks in Lucas County and across Ohio.

Mr. Gallon, winner of multiple service awards throughout his career, has been selected by the National Recreation and Park Association as this year's National Voluntary Service Award. Completing his sixth term on the voluntary board that governs the Metroparks, Mr. Gallon said he plans to continue working to preserve undeveloped land so future generations will have plenty of places to think.

"Very few people would sell to us if they can sell it for five times more to a developer," Mr. Gallon said of the difficulties the parks have run into while preserving land. "That's why we had to stay ahead of the game. We go out to those areas where there's no water and where developers aren't interested in buying."

The lifelong Toledoan - whose father, Joe, was recognized especially for his work with the Old Newsboys Goodfellow Association- traces his love of nature to his early involvement in the Boy Scouts of America. Eventually attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, Mr. Gallon said he has always believed in the benefits of the outdoors.

That's why you won't find a pole in Mr. Gallon's hands as he travels through the park picking up trash. "The idea is to get all the way down there and back up again," he said.

He pauses briefly as he observes children without helmets riding through the park. "That's the next thing we'll work on," he said.

But he recognizes that the acres of forest-filled parks throughout the county wouldn't be possible without volunteers. So Mr. Gallon volunteers his time to make decisions for the parks and volunteers his energies to convince voters about the importance of park levies. In fact, his decision to retire from the Board of Park Commissioners after 18 years this December was postponed when others asked that he be a voice in the community in 2007 when the levy is up for renewal.

Also, Mr. Gallon was responsible for establishing the Jack Gallon Board Development Institute administered by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association to train park district board members throughout the state.

"One of Jack's greatest strengths is his passion for volunteers," said Metroparks Director Jim Spengler. "We have a large volunteer base and they are supported at the top."

Mr. Gallon's passion for helping goes beyond his charitable work and time spent on the parks. Mr. Gallon has practiced law locally for 50 years, 38 of those years working pro bono for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee.

A local union that works to organize and protect the rights of immigrant farm workers, FLOC leaders pay tribute Mr. Gallon for helping them through the legal battles that could have ruined the organization and left thousands of people without representation. A very important part of Mr. Gallon's life, representing FLOC plays a significant role in his belief, that everyone should have access to justice.

But it's his giving nature to the parks that will earn him the 2005 National Voluntary Service Award, while he is in San Antonio, Texas, in October for the National Recreation and Park Association conference. Michelle Park, who nominated Mr. Gallon for the award, complimented his energy.

"He has been able to apply what he's learned here in Ohio to help others and share that with other states," said Ms. Park, executive director of the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association. "His influence isn't just here in Ohio."

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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