The Marion County Park District is currently recruiting volunteers for their partner organization, Friends of Prairie Parks. Members of this organization help the park district by developing and maintaining the park by providing trail maintenance, mowing grass, organizing weekly walking and biking outings, and presenting programs to the public. Their efforts play an important role in keeping the Park District’s trails safe and usable for the Marion community.
Currently, the Park District operates under one full-time employee, Naturalist James Anderson, and a park board consisting of five commissioners. This leaves a significant amount of work for a small group of people. Because of this, the Park District is appreciative of local volunteers.
Recently, one local man has turned his hobby of woodworking into a great volunteer recruitment initiative for the Park District.
Originally from Berkley, Michigan, T.J. Downey has been a resident of Marion for more than 30 years. An avid walker, Downey can be found strolling along the trail year-round.
Downey appreciates the Tallgrass Trail, a 12.4-mile-long scenic walking trail located at 2093 Holland Road.
“I am drawn by its serenity and safety, as well as being able to appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons,” Downey said of the trail.
Downey retired in 2008 and spent his time restoring antique fans as well as clocks. However, he found the work repetitive. Inspiration struck after Downey’s wife requested a walking stick to offer support during their walks on the trail. After failing to find a suitable walking stick to purchase, Downey put his hobby to practice and created a walking stick for his wife. Downey enjoyed the process so much, that he reached out to the Park District offering to create more walking sticks for members of the Marion community who frequent the trails.
All of the walking sticks are made from downed timber Downey finds during his two-mile walks on the trail. He is careful to select wood that is durable and will create a long-lasting walking stick. After finding the correct timber piece, Downey then applies a clear coat and sands it smooth. Due to the various natural colors of the wood, Downey doesn’t stain the wood.
Downey’s wife, Cressie, remarked about the process, “It would be like trying to tell God how to paint a sunrise.”
To finish the process, a stainless metal tip is inserted at the bottom of the walking sticks to prevent wear.
Downey is very excited to be helping the Park District and views the partnership as his way of giving back to the community and to the trail.
The Marion Park District will use the hand-made walking sticks within a new promotion to help recruit members into their volunteer organization, the Friends of Prairie Parks. Members of this organization will receive a 5K walking log that upon completion enables them to receive one of Downey’s walking sticks. The Marion County Park District and Friends of Prairie Parks hope this initiative helps increase their current volunteer numbers and allows for more use and maintenance of the trails.
Those interested in participating should contact the Marion County Park District at 740-223-4161 or download a form from their website at http://marioncountyparks.info/5kLog.pdf. Once the log is completed, contact the Park District via phone or on Facebook messenger to the Marion Ohio County Park District to arrange the pickup of a walking stick.