We were soooo lucky to have such nice weather. The days were all blue sky, low humidity, and nice temps in the 70's. We could not have asked for a better stretch of weather for our jamboree.
Here is the link for a list of links about the campground we were at:
and here is a link for a PDF file of the campground map and grounds
Our campsite was pristine, the park was quiet and well-maintained, and we saw a lot of wonderful wildlife ... even a pair of cranes were waking us up each morning with their excited calls. Kudos to Ottawa Lake Rec Area staff for hosting such a large gathering of volunteers! (ps they treated us all three days with free camping, free meals and wonderful entertainment)
Monday morning was started off with a continental breakfast over by the shelter B in the park. We donned our little nametags so we all knew who was who and what parks we volunteered at.
We were welcomed by a big sign, and a full spread of breakfast goodies to enjoy. We sat and chatted with folks we met last year and also new faces to meet and learn where they were from.
Because the shelter is a bit small to contain all of the attendees, they erected a couple extra tents/canopies to make sure everyone had a place in case of bad weather. But ... tada! We had such nice sunshine, it all worked out.
I want to take a moment to give a special thanks...
this gal was instrumental in making sure everything went off without a hitch!
She was hands on all morning, noon and night for all of our events---
meet Amanda Kutka of Visitor Services
Her smile kept on going along with her willingness
to rush around and make sure all of our needs were met.
THANK YOU, AMANDA!!!!!
After breakfast was done, we were ushered over to the amphitheater for our morning program...
we sure filled the place up!
Located along the shores of the lake, we enjoyed the outdoors and the view
as much as we enjoyed the informative speakers who came to talk to us.
Peter Biermeier, the Section Chief for Recreation, Planning and Development first talked about the park system and this being the 114th year of having a Volunteer Jamboree to celebrate, He enthusiastically thanked all of the volunteers who make the Wisconsin State Parks the success that they are. He welcomed us warmly and talked about exciting new things happening in the Wisconsin State Park system. I only caught a shot of him leaving the stage, because my camera battery needed replacing. Dang!
Next up was Paul Sandgren
who is the Superintendent of the Southern Kettle Moraine Unit.
He pulled out a map and gave us an idea of the wonderful things we could do and see in the area.. and invited us to fully enjoy the entire park which encompasses five campgrounds and many trails, springs and many opportunities to explore. There sure is a lot to do in this large park system that stretches for many miles and has a lot of facilities available.
This is Kurt Thiede who is a Regional Administrator.
He talked a lot about the IT improvements of the DNR website,
and new state park developments.
Next up on the docket was Kimberly Currie, Deputy Director of Parks... She lightened up the crowd with a cute joke about her bosses and a camping trip. It was a good opener. ....she told of some statistics ... did you know that THIS year the Wisconsin State Parks has had the HIGHEST attendance ever in their history? Wisconsin State Parks rank 3rd in the US with camping occupancy and fifth in the US for overall park attendance? Wow.. those are some impressive figures with only 81 parks in the entire state.
Then Chris Pedretti, Section Chief, spoke about IT and tech issues, and how the park website is changing and making information more accessible. I think Kimberly Currie jumped in here with the news of a photo contest that had been held on Facebook, which enabled the DNR to have a slew of new park photos to use in the future promotion of the State Parks.
Paul Zajackowski, NR Program Regional Manager spoke about capital improvements and repairs in the park system. Did you know the average age of any building in the state parks is FIFTY years old? There are over 5000 campsites in the 81 parks, and most of the equipment, buildings and structures are over 30 years old. This was of interest to Steve, being the Facilities Maintenance Specialist Advanced at High Cliff State Park. They try so hard at his park to repair and butter up the aging buildings and make them as user friendly as possible.
The various speakers shared that although they are trying to keep up properties and finding funding to repair and replace things as needed... we also have to advocate and ask for funds (politically) to improve and grow. New properties, new facilities and expanding existing parks is a focus for the future.
Jason Fritz was next up, he is the Chief Ranger and also the NR Region Program Manager who spoke about Ranger duties and keeping park patrons and volunteers safe and able to enjoy the parks to their fullest. Some questions were asked about the new "concealed carry and open carry" policies etc. and the volunteer staff was assured all situations would be addressed and handled by the rangers and wardens on site. Camphost Volunteers can safely rely on their park policing staff to take care of all issues that would arise.
The last speaker of the morning (before Peter Biermeier took back the mike) was Joe ... now forgive me for messing up his last name. I thought it was said as Rhewrie or something like that. But the Northern Highlands Campground Manager is listed as Joe Fieweger. Either way, let's just call him JOE, okay? He spoke about working in the largest state forest in Wisconsin. The Northern Highlands Unit has over 800 campsites, 18 campgrounds, and is always looking for more hosts. Soooo we were a good group to hit up for next year! LOL
My personal overall impression of all of the speakers this morning was GRATITUDE.... for us, the volunteers. Because without us, the work preformed and executed could never, ever be done by paid workers in the era of tight budget cuts and diminishing funds for the park system. Without the many hours of the volunteers, and the Friends of the Park organizations throughout the state and the many extra hours put in by valued employees, the Wisconsin Parks are a success!
Peter Biermeier then took over the microphone and invited us to all take a break and head on up to the canopy tented area to watch a slideshow presentation about Old World Wisconsin.
Jennifer Van Haften from nearby Old World Wisconsin came to do a presentation about her facility,
which was built on lands donated by the DNR. Old World Wisconsin is a "living history museum" to learn about life back in the late 1800's and the settlement era of Wisconsin. They have paid staff in costume to re-enact life on the farms and small village in Wisconsin back in the day. They even allow teens to intern for work, and let children help with chores! They help to maintain historic breeds of farm animals, heirloom plants and garden vegetables and have various farms and houses to explore with live docents in costume to help educate the visitors on early life in Wisconsin.
Old World Wisconsin is an open-air museum located near Eagle, WI. Opened in 1976, the museum is owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. It portrays housing and the daily life of immigrants in 19th century Wisconsin.
Although the museum wasn't open during our stay at Ottawa Lake,
we were invited to come back and see what the museum has to offer throughout the year.
I had been there long ago, and would love to go back sometime.
More information can be found on their website at
After the presentation was done, we were invited to join up for lunch in the main pavilion. The group lined up for sub sandwiches and all the fixens... followed up with a big huge chocolate chip cookie!
This is where the morning ends...
and my previous blog about the canoeing afternoon
was posted right before this one.
The next blog will deal with the evening entertainment!
P.S. PLEASE EXCUSE ANY INACCURACIES AS FAR AS NAMES AND FACES, BECAUSE I TOOK NOTES AS FAST AS I COULD ON MY SMART PHONE, AND MAY HAVE SOME MISTAKES!