When I took over as the Area Manager for Deception Pass State Park Rory Wallgren, a long-time small business owner in Washington State and a lifelong resident of Washington, had a retirement goal of volunteering at Deception Pass State Park. Rory has had many roles in his life while enjoying his retirement but his primary duty is to take care of his aging parents who also live near the park. He is never too far away from them in case they need any assistance. On occasion, you will see Rory’s mother in the park with him, giving some motherly guidance on his volunteer duties. Rory is seldom very far from the park; it is not uncommon to see him in the park fishing, crabbing, or taking a boat ride with his wife Linda.
Rory’s other main focus during his retirement has been volunteering at Deception Pass State Park and the scope of his volunteer activities led me to heartily recommended him for the Washington State Park Volunteer of the Year Award. Rory has an impeccable character and has created valuable connections with the visitors and employees at the park. Every single employee is familiar with Rory’s energy level, enthusiasm, positivity, and love of Deception Pass State Park.
This year, one of Rory’s main volunteer duties in the park was to gather, deconstruct, and rebuild many picnic tables throughout the park. This may seem like a small task; however, to put this into perspective, Deception Pass State Park has 375 picnic tables scattered throughout the day use area and then another 360 picnic tables in the campgrounds. To keep these tables on a 10-year repair/replacement cycle, there must be no less than 40 tables a year repaired and/or replaced. In addition, Deception Pass State Park is trying to replace all the metal/wood picnic tables in the Civilian Conservation Corps heritage areas within the park with C.C.C. era style picnic tables. These tables consist of two types of wood tables. One table is built from dimensional lumber to replicate the look of the C.C.C. era table. The second style of table is handcrafted from trees that have failed in the park and were milled to the dimension of lumber from the 1930’s. Finally, there is another program in the park where citizens can memorialize/honor others by donating to this cause through the memorial picnic table program. To date, this program has resulted in an additional 40 tables/benches that needed to be built in additional to the normal replacement program and has raised $54,500 for the Deception Pass Park Foundation and has been dedicated to environmental education at Deception Pass State Park.
To highlight the effort that Rory has committed toward this picnic table program I will start with the number of days he has committed either as an individual or as a group leader through most of the year. Rory volunteers no matter the condition of the weather or the time of the year virtually every Wednesday of the calendar year. Many times, this involves taking on some of the tedious work surrounding the picnic table project. This may be sanding each piece of the wooden table, drilling holes for the sections that must be put together, routing the edges of each board so visitors do not get splinters, deconstructing metal legged tables so we can recycle the parts, and leading volunteer work parties on the weekend to build picnic tables with volunteers who have little to no experience in building picnic tables. Rory routinely helps gather and place new tables throughout the park.
If this were the only volunteer work Rory did in the park, he would be worthy of this award. However, Rory is a much more involved in the Park than just this project. During one of the picnic building work events, Rory reached out to me an apologized that he had not gotten out onto the trails to clean them up and have them ready for the visiting public.
Deception Pass State Park has approximately 40 miles of hiking trails. During the summer of 2021, as he worked around his picnic table efforts, Rory could be seen in many areas of the park trimming back undergrowth so there is great trail visibility for hiking and enough room on the trails so visitors can pass by one another. The great thing is Rory is aware of when hikers plan to show up in the park. Rory gets much of this work done early in the day as to not infringe upon peaceful hikes.
However, this is not the only work Rory has done in the park. He is relied upon heavily by the Deception Pass Park Foundation to do much of the heavy lifting. This may be taking old appliances out of the park to be recycled because they are no longer serviceable. This includes picking up and installing new appliances for the foundation store. It includes leading large work groups to remove dangerous and dilapidated structures like the old children’s playset at Bowman Bay or the old cook shelter at the Quarry Pond Park residence. Finally, the annual winter storm campground clean-up. This effort takes place every year in January, February, and March following the storm season. As we approach a new storm season, I think back at the devastation that took place on January 12, 2021, with the 82 mile per hour windstorm at Deception Pass. This storm destroyed many parts of the park and Rory was immediately volunteering to help get the park ready for the camping season that starts promptly on April 1 of each year. His efforts are commendable.
In closing, Rory is an individual of impeccable character. He is a thoughtful person who considers others’ thoughts, feelings, and opinions before acting. I think about the first sentence of our own mission statement by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission to care “for Washington’s most treasured lands, waters, and historic places.” Rory epitomizes that goal and would represent the agency at the highest level. Rory embodies many of our core values as he volunteers in the park: commitment to stewardship that transmits high quality park assets for future generations, dedication to outdoor recreation and public enjoyment that welcomes all our citizens to their public parks, excellence in all we do, and support for one another. So far, in 2021, Rory has volunteered 58 days in the park.
Rory is a treasured asset to this park and the community. Without volunteers like Rory, this park would struggle to stay on top of the maintenance required for the 360 campsites, over 600 picnic tables, over 100 buildings, and the 40 plus miles of hiking trails. Rory epitomizes the type of individual that Washington State Parks seeks and treasures to maintain our parks and focus their efforts toward excellent stewardship of park resources.