It’s jovial time for the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails. Board member Jerry Miller was recognized by the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging, the county commissioners and by State Senator Bob Hackett on Monday.
He was praised as a model senior citizen for his service in keeping the parks and trails neat and tidy for users, among other volunteer work in the county. But the word senior is setting off alarm bells in the minds of other members of the nature stewardship group.
“Our organization is not sustainable,” said Wayne Roberts, Executive director of the Friends. “Due to our lack of our ability to interest younger volunteers to come out and our aging process, we’re not going to be able to do it for a long period of time.”
He said his goal is to make sure the trails and nature preserves can be sustainable in the future so they require less maintenance.
“We have a high standard compared to other areas from what people have told us,” said Roberts. “Madison County is a beautiful place to go for the trails.”
“I think part of the problem getting people to come in is you do such a good job at it and they see you’re getting along and getting things done, they say ‘well I don’t need to help you,’” said Commissioner Mark Forrest. “I think that curve, and it will change, I think that maybe they’ll say ‘well now I can go spend some time.’”
The other commissioners acknowledged the situation as well.
“We understand the dilemma,” said Commissioner David Dhume. “It’s a question of volunteers and capital and how do we gain both, we’ll work with you on the capital side…the commissioners would encourage anyone to participate in our rails to trails program, to visit the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails and to see they would possibly be a volunteer or even a board member, to continue the great work they’ve accomplished over the last 15 years.”
Roberts said he was reviewing how other park boards manage themselves to help look at possible solutions.
“I think it’s helpful information for us and for [the commissioners] going forward, and we have much more details going forward,” he said.
Right now the Friend’s big project is a trail extension for the Ohio to Erie trail.
The commissioners and the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails purchased a five-acre plot near the intersection of Maple and Center streets in order to fill part of more than a mile-long gap which disconnects the trail between the Columbus portion and the Clark County portion of the trail.
The Friends said previously that they need $78,000 to finish the bike trail extension and even with significant progress are currently raising funds.
Roberts has said he believes extending the trail so it actually runs through downtown London could help revive the downtown with more people coming through.
Donations are still being accepted online at fmcpt.com or mailed to FMCPT — Trail Gap, P.O. Box 308, London, OH 43140.
They could also use volunteers to help clear and ready the area, which Roberts said is a great way to start to get involved.
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617, or on Twitter @msfkwiat.