GREENVILLE — Ivan Brand has been a Darke County Park District volunteer going on three years.
He is a member of the Darke County Parks “Over-The-Hill Gang;” a group of volunteers with a variety of skills, that do construction and maintenance work, along with other duties for the park district. Brand said “Over-The-Hill Gang” Leader Jim Poeppelman encouraged him to join the informal group.
“I had retired and was looking for things to do,” Brand said. “In the beginning it was a lot of cutting trees and I thought, ‘What did I get myself into?’. Now we are actually building something, like this bridge.”
A few weeks ago, in addition to Poeppelman and Brand, volunteers Neal Schmidt and Dave Miller were working hard cutting logs into 2-inch thick planks for a bridge they recently re-decked at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center, in Greenville. The 12-feet wide by 31-feet long bridge they replaced is used for the park district to haul equipment back and forth to maintain the park. It was at least 15-years-old. During its life, the bridge had been patched up here and there, but it needed an overhaul, according to Poeppelman.
“Every foot-and-a-half we will put these boards cross ways and clamp them down to the rail,” he said. “We have to remove the old decking. It will be tricky because there is water in the creek. White oak weathers pretty good. We should be able to get about 15 more years out of the bridge.”
The labor and most of the tools, such as the fasteners were donated, including the white oak, which was donated by Kip and Teri Ann Kline. The cost to the park district was the fuel and the generator, Poeppelman said. The “Over-The-Hill-Gang” is comprised of about 25 members, mostly in their 70s. For those wondering the requirements of gaining membership, it is pretty stringent, Poeppelman said.
“You have to have a pulse,” he said. “I enjoy working with the guys and there are some challenges involved. We need people, especially younger people to join. The park district has a lot of opportunities.”
Darke County Park District Director Roger Van Frank said the “Over-The-Hill-Gang” has single-handedly been responsible for quite a few park structures over the years.
“They have literally saved the district thousands of dollars in labor,” he said. “They are a fun-loving group of individuals to work with, who believe in the park district and its mission. I enjoy their company and their finished product is superior. They have so many talents. Some of them are retired to industries, such as: electrical, mechanical engineering and carpentry. In their retirement they have found a group of like-minded people that enjoy being able to assist the community. The park district is in full receipt of their work.”
Those interested in joining the “Over-The-Hill-Gang” can find out more information by calling Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center at 937-548-0165. No special skills are required to volunteer.
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