How the Friends of Warren County Parks Started


(Photo courtesy of Dave Woehr) 2023 Friends of Warren County Park District Park Champions: Kathy Schroeder, Jim Prickett, Judy Bay

By Leslie R. Dye, MD, Communications Chair, FWCPDOH  

"We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours."

--John of Salisbury, Metalogicon, 1159

I moved to Warren County 30 years ago because I started a job at Wright State University and my husband worked at the University of Cincinnati. I was 34 years old and at the end of the Baby Boomer generation or "Me Generation." Many say that every generation is the "Me Generation," self-absorbed and ego driven. At that point in my career, there is no doubt I was most interested in my career advancement and more material issues. I prided myself on wilderness travel and a love of nature. Despite being raised to appreciate the natural environment where I lived, I thought recitation of my travel exploits to more exotic natural points far and wide gave me more street cred. Wow-why does wisdom often seem to come in the form of recognizing yourself as an idiot?

A few years ago, I became a member of the Friends of Warren County Parks and last year I sent an email to Dianna Kenneally, the President, asking if they would like to hear a lecture about Antarctica. Long story not quite as long: I attended a monthly meeting and am now the communications chair.

BUT-this isn't about me at all. This is about the tiny bit I have learned from opening myself up to opportunities. I found this selfless, humble, and hard working group of people who reminded me of where my love for nature and animals started. It started at the farm where I grew up-in the woods, the pastures, the garden, and the pond.

The Friends organization was started by friends. The mission statement was written in 2006 and the organization obtained non-profit 501c3 status in 2007, the same year the first meeting was held by the co-founders, Kathy Schroeder and Judy Bay. Both have served as president, treasurer and ran the first membership drive and fundraising campaign. They were instrumental in making nature education an important part of the parks, including spearheading programs like Tech Free Tuesday and Cops and Bobbers. Jim Prickett, a long time Warren County resident founded and chaired Hisey fall fest for over 16 years and served as the secretary for the Friends organization. He is responsible for offering hayrides, animal petting, pumpkin picking and more to Warren County families every year. All three continue to be active with the Friends group and the parks and were awarded Park Champion Service Awards in 2023.

What is the point? The people who love nature in Alaska, the Arctic, Antarctica, Africa and anywhere in the world started with a love of nature at home. And that home can be here in Warren County, Ohio. The other point is that regardless of how access to technology soars exponentially, people can still drive others toward their passions. I grew up in rural southeastern Indiana, where I always traveled the farm in the company of at least one dog, learned to garden (and to can and freeze vegetables), foraged for morels with my mother, who had a Botany degree, learned to swim in a pond, and loved the change of seasons. Without the appreciation of the outdoors and nature provided by my parents, I would have no interest in Caesar's Creek, Hisey Park, Polar bears, or the poles.

Probably every generation looks at those who come after as selfish and self-centered. While technology may someday simulate nature, I find it difficult that there is any substitute for walking and working outdoors to teach the lessons I learned. Kathy, Judy, and Jim along with so many others who humbly volunteer are the key to keeping the love of the outdoors and nature alive. A passage from 1159 is still pertinent today, whether it appears on stone, paper, or via electrons. The children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of the volunteers and those who have benefited from their tireless work will continue to deliver the same passion to generations to come. 

This is the first in a new series of blogs to introduce the public to more about the Friends of Warren County Parks. For any comments or suggestions, please email

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