Schrier’s countless volunteer hours benefit Wooster park

Schrier’s countless volunteer hours benefit Wooster park
Herb Broda

The park began in 1961 when local high school teacher Paul Spangler began a series of land donations to the City of Wooster.

                        

If you hike at Wooster Memorial Park, there is a good chance you will meet Shelley Schrier as he enjoys a walk and also looks to see what needs to be done next to keep the trails maintained. This volunteer organizes the tasks that need to be done to keep the 11.6 miles of trails in the park open and safe.

Schrier is the president of the Friends of Wooster Memorial Park, the group that provides hundreds of hours of volunteer time to maintain and enhance the park. He has been active in the group since 2002 and has served as president, vice president and director over the years. Previously he was a school psychologist in the Wooster City School District.

The park began in 1961 when local high school teacher Paul Spangler began a series of land donations to the City of Wooster. Spangler stipulated that the area be named “Wooster Memorial Park” in memory of his family and strong faith. In 1997 a citizens group was formed by local resident Stan Watson to care for the park. In 2002 this group became a formal nonprofit organization.

Over the years Spangler’s original 133-acre donation has grown to 422 acres. The Friend’s website says, “This is a primitive and remote park, and these conditions should be respected and anticipated when you plan to use the park.”

Although most of the park has primitive earthen foot trails, the park added the Kenwood Acres property in 2015 and created a paved ADA-accessible trail to its portfolio.

The park is the largest contiguous block of forested area in Wayne County and is home to more than 500 species of plants. It is known for its wooded, steep ravines and Rathburn Run, a tributary of the Killbuck Creek. The park is protected in perpetuity through a conservation easement on the land.

Although the park is owned by the City of Wooster, The Friends of Wooster Memorial Park has provided thousands of hours of volunteer time over the years to maintain the trails. Schrier is grateful the city provides materials like posts, signs, tools and assistance with projects that go beyond the scope of volunteer effort.

Schrier enjoys organizing maintenance work on the more than 11 miles of trails that weave through the landscape. He gets help from a volunteer list of 75-80 people who also have a special interest in trail management. The College of Wooster is a regular source of help through its volunteer network. Several local churches also have participated in maintenance activities at the park.

One of the park’s biggest needs, according to Schrier, is to get younger people involved with the Friends group and its many projects. Since much of the work to be done at Wooster Memorial Park is labor-intensive trail maintenance, it is critical to continually attract a crew of younger volunteers.

The Fall Hiking Challenge was created not only to encourage membership in the Friends group, but also to provide a family outdoor experience. The hiking challenge is open to all members of Friends of Wooster Memorial Park and their children. Between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, participants can hike 10 or more miles in the park to earn a commemorative hiking pin. First-time hikers will receive a complimentary hiking staff.

According to Schrier, one of the most successful programs for attracting youth to the park has been the Running is FUN - Kids Summer Running Camp. In partnership with Wooster-based Vertical Runner and Camp Nuhop, this program for children age 5-12 takes place at the park for two days a week for five weeks. The program now serves 150 youth and brings both parents and children to the park.

To continue to attract new audiences, the Friends group has expanded its offerings of guided nature walks. Hikes appropriate to the flora and fauna of the season are scheduled monthly including winter hikes and evening campfire programs.

Schrier said keeping up with trail maintenance is a growing challenge in a park that has increased to its present 422 acres. But Cathy Herms, vice president of the Friends, is confident Schrier is up to the task.

“He is definitely a ‘can do’ person, optimistic and inclusive,” she said. “People know that they are appreciated.”


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