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Maple Grove Voice

Three Rivers Park District to Honor 2018 Distinguished Volunteers

Apr 10, 2018 09:11AM ● By Wendy Erlien

2018 Three Rivers Park District Distinguished Volunteer Service Award recipients. (photo provided by Three Rivers Park District)

Last year, Three Rivers Park District had more than 780 ongoing volunteers who donated close to 37,500 hours to programs and services within the park system. To recognize their contributions, the Park District recognizes several volunteers each year through the Distinguished Volunteer Service Award program.  

“The Distinguished Volunteer Service Award program is a way to acknowledge outstanding representatives of our dedicated park volunteers,” Three Rivers Park District Volunteer Coordinator Deb Vosler said.  “Without our volunteers, we simply would not be able to deliver the number of high-quality programs and services to the public that we do.”  

This year’s six Distinguished Volunteer Service Award recipients have contributed a combined total of 6,086 hours of volunteer service to the Park District; 748 of those hours occurred in 2017. 

The 2018 recipients are include two local Elm Creek Park Reserve volunteers, Patty Kowal of Maple Grove and Kevin McKinney of Rogers. 

 Kowal has been volunteering for Three Rivers for just over 28 years. As a Program Assistant, Kowal helps nature center staff during programs including apple cidering, monarch tagging, maple syruping, bird banding, full moon walks, wildflower hikes and many more.

“I love teaching and saw this as an opportunity to bring my love of nature to children and adults,” Kowal said. Bird banding is one of Kowal’s favorite programs. “I record the data from banded birds we catch at Eastman Nature Center. It is very interesting and the bonus is that I get to see wild birds up close.”

 McKinney has been volunteering for Three Rivers for just over four years. In that time, he has already volunteered 759 hours, with 258 hours last year alone. As a Natural Resources Surveyor, McKinney finds and maps the locations of invasive plants in the parks including oriental bittersweet, autumn olive and wild parsnip.

“It’s my interest in nature and being involved in the citizen science and stewardship programs offered by Three Rivers Parks,” McKinney said. “I feel like I’m making the parks a little more enjoyable for people using the system.”

Other recipients are Nettie Andrews of Minneapolis, Wrick Dunning of Northfield, and Eli Hamberger of Watertown.  

The award recipients will be honored by the Park District Board of Commissioners with a ceremony at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 19 at the Park District’s Administrative Center in Plymouth. In addition to the Board of Commissioners ceremony, recipients of the Distinguished Volunteer Service Award are recognized on plaques at facilities around the Park District and at a gathering hosted by the Board Chair and Superintendent.

For more information about volunteer opportunities at Three Rivers Park District, visit or call 763-559-6706.

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