Volunteering: Park Patrol

By: Deb Vosler

August 27, 2018

Category: Philanthropy

Did you know there is a team of volunteers on park and regional trails in Three Rivers ready to help in any situation?

They are known as park patrollers and each year, there are about 100 volunteers who patrol Three Rivers on paved bike/hike trails, singletrack mountain bike trails, horse trails, cross-country ski trails and at events.

A Day in the Life of a Park Patroller

Park patrollers ensure the trails are safe and watch for people who might need information or help if they are hurt or lost. They also help spread the “share the trail” message to trail users and educate guests on other park rules.

On a typical day, patrollers enjoy chatting with trail guests and getting exercise and fresh air. On occasion, their help is needed, like when a biker has a flat tire or a child has lost their parent or a trail hazard needs to be reported. Park patrollers also remind dog owners to keep their pets on leashes while using trails. 

Park patrollers can provide basic medical assistance and help park guests in need, like when a skier has frostbitten their fingers. They are also there to help in the event someone has fallen off their bike or horse or when a person is experiencing a medical episode. Patrollers call for help when necessary and are prepared to provide basic first aid and CPR.

Having volunteer patrollers on the trails also extends the reach of park staff into more remote areas and provides visibility, which helps to deter unwanted activities. The goal is to help everyone have a good day while participating in a fun activity.

Signature race events like the Ski Rennet, Fat Bike Rennet, Trail Mix, Big Woods Classic and Autumn Woods Classic also rely heavily on the help of many park patrollers.

Patrollers in the Parks

woman in a red volunteer shirt standing next to a horse trailer with her horse
Above, Kristin Lee trailers her horse and travels to Carver, Crow-Hassan, Lake Rebecca and Murphy-Hanrehan park reserves to patrol. Photo courtesy of Three Rivers volunteer staff.

"We love to ride the horse trails and this is a way for my horse, Jaeger, and I to give back to the parks and to our horse community," Kristin said.

man biking on a boardwalk trail
Pictured above is one of the first bikers to use the new Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail. Photo courtesy of Peter Wattson, park patrol volunteer.

Peter Wattson gets in his biking miles while patrolling the regional trails. He has biked every regional trail that Three Rivers has opened so far. He also checks out new trails as soon as (or sometimes before) they open, like Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail.

man in a red park patrol vest with ski poles in his hand
Dick Kobussen patrols the cross-country ski trails at French Regional Park when there is enough snow. Photo courtesy of Three Rivers volunteer staff.

Dick Kobussen also volunteers in the summer, helping the Outdoor Recreation School with their paddling programs. He has helped patrol mountain bike races and other signature races, like Trail Mix and Autumn Woods Classic.

runners lined up at a start line for a race
Park Patroller Tom McConville (left) leads runners on his bike during the 5K and 10K races at Autumn Woods Classic. Photo courtesy of Three Rivers volunteer staff.

Patrollers sometimes use their special talents and skills when helping on trails. One year it was snowy and icy, yet Tom McConville still led racers on trails during Autumn Woods Classic.

The next time you're in the parks and you see a volunteer wearing a red shirt or jacket, be sure to say hi! It is likely a Three Rivers park patrol volunteer. 

Reports from the Trails

In addition to helping trail users learn about park rules, park patrol volunteers inform staff about what's happening in the parks, for example, if there's been damage after a storm.

Park patrollers also contribute ideas for trail improvements and they provide insight into what the public is saying about the parks. Some patrollers take advantage of the natural surroundings to observe wildlife and share their sightings.

tree limb hanging over a paved trail
Photo courtesy of Dawn Peterson, park patrol volunteer.

Dawn Peterson commutes to and from work on the Luce Line Regional Trail. Her latest report included a little storm damage (pictured above.)

turtle on a paved trail
Photo courtesy of Louise Ogden, park patrol volunteer.

According to Park Patroller Louise Ogden, sometimes wildlife can cause a traffic jam! She captured the photo above while patrolling Medicine Lake Regional Trail.

two bikers looking at a trail map next to a paved trail
Photo courtesy of Byron Ritter, park patrol volunteer.

Byron Ritter, another park patrol volunteer, reported: "I had a wonderful evening riding along the raised boardwalks of the recently completed Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail. I parked my bike and sat at the kiosk along the trail near Tracy Road in Edina around sunset and answered questions about the trail. I received 'thanks' for being there and many accolades from patrons about how they enjoyed the new trail and look forward to connections (to other trails) they can now make."

paved trail through colorful autumn prairies
Photo courtesy of Mike McCalley, park patrol volunteer.

Mike McCalley sent this picture of his favorite location — the junction of the paved trail at Elm Creek Park Reserve leading to Eastman Nature Center.

Interested in becoming a park patroller?

Three Rivers appreciates all the good work that patrollers do for the parks and trails and more patrollers are always needed!

For more information on park patrol, visit Three Rivers Volunteering. Training is offered in the fall and spring.

For more information on Three Rivers parks and regional trails, visit www.threeriversparks.org/locations.

About the Author

deb vosler

Deb Vosler is the Volunteer Resources Coordinator for Three Rivers Park District. She started working for Three Rivers as a seasonal employee at Hyland Lake Park Reserve for the 1981-82 cross-country ski season. She was hired in her current position in the volunteer office in 1985. She is a member of National Ski Patrol and she volunteers with the Viking Nordic Patrol at ski, bike and running races in the Twin Cities.

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