Nature education is at the core of the Council of Park Friends (CPF) in central New York. It’s also what first drew long-time volunteer Diane Kuehn to CPF and Clark Reservation State Park as an undergraduate student at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).
It was an advertisement for a weekday naturalist position at Clark Reservation, where CPF is based, that caught Diane’s attention. She applied, got the position, and spent the summer working for CPF. She came back the next summer to work again, and continued to work with CPF as she worked on her Master’s degree. Since her degree involved researching the federally-threatened American hart’s-tongue fern found in the park, she spent a lot of time in Clark Reservation.
Nearly 30 years later, Diane has remained involved with CPF since and currently serves as treasurer of the board.
“I like giving back to an organization that gave so much to me,” says Diane. “The work I did early on with CPF helped me choose my career in outdoor recreation management.”
During the college year, Diane teaches courses in outdoor recreation and ecotourism as an associate professor in the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management at SUNY ESF, and conducts research related to park management.
CPF has organized public nature walks at Clark Reservation State Park since its inception in 1980 and regularly brings in speakers from Syracuse University and the SUNY ESF, as well as other organizations, to lead these walks. CPF also hosts “by request” programs for youth groups and other organizations interested in learning more about the park.
In addition to its education programs, CPF supports the park’s ongoing efforts to protect the American hart’s-tongue fern found, to work with State Parks to remove invasive plant species that threaten the unique habitat of the park, to staff the park’s nature center (pictured), and to clean up litter in the park.
Diane is currently working on a ZBGA (Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program) grant through State Parks.
“I’ve worked on everything from the grant application itself to getting our organization’s documents on the state’s grants document vault,” Diane explains. “With a portion of the ZBGA funding, we’re looking to better protect our herbarium specimens in the nature center this year by creating a new storage system for the specimens.”
When not working or volunteering with CPF, Diane is a leader for her teenaged-son’s Boy Scout troop in Caughdenoy, NY, and she volunteers at a local clothes donation center. She also gardens (“a lot”) during the spring and summer, and enjoys travelling, biking, hiking, and fishing and spending time with her husband and son.
Even after all her time at Clark Reservation, the park still amazes her.
“Having the largest concentration of the American hart’s-tongue fern in New York State right in this one park is truly amazing to me,” says Diane. “The diversity of plant species found in the park is also incredible. I love hiking on the limestone bedrock found throughout the park, and I am still fascinated (after nearly 30 years of being in the park) with the fossils found in the bedrock.”
“The people who work in this park (both the OPRHP staff and the CPF volunteers) also make it special”, Diane continues. “They are all so dedicated to making this park a great place to visit that it’s a privilege to work with them.”