Tom Rockwood is a life-long resident of Richfield. In fact, his family has been in Richfield for more than 100 years. His grand-father was a trustee back in the 1920s, and knew James Kirby. As a young boy, Tom was a Boy Scout when the 336-acre property was known as Crowell Hilaka and run by the Girl Scouts.
Today, Tom, 65, is a familiar face at Richfield Heritage Preserve (RHP). Nearly two years ago he began coming to the park for enjoyment and to see how he could help out. That turned into coming every day, seven days a week and sometimes even twice a day. He can be seen walking the trails and picking up litter, and it's become a crusade of his to keep RHP clean for everyone to enjoy. He says that his eye for keeping things neat and tidy might come from his scouting days of “Leave No Trace,” but probably more so because he’s so proud of Richfield’s new park and he wants others to love it as much as he does.
When not picking up litter, he can be found trimming back low branches for hikers’ safety, trimming back brush and branches from the perimeter of the property to make it easier for volunteers to mow the grass, as well as picking up fallen limbs. He also weeds (by hand) wherever he thinks things could look a little nicer. Most recently, he spent some time giving a little TLC to a row of forgotten rose bushes along the front one of the buildings near the Broadview Road entrance.
His work doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Tom is our most active and dependable volunteer,” says Pat Norris, current Richfield Joint Recreation District Trustee.
Like one of the Shoemaker’s Elves, he quietly works his magic, always leaving RHP better than he found it. Just this week he took it upon himself to repair a broken garage door, so those volunteers needing access to mowers and vehicles could get to their work without issue. He’s trained in nearly every trade so his talents, which are many, come in handy on any given day.
“It’s been a godsend,” Tom says of his work at and connection to RHP. After losing his wife and weathering the worst of a cluster of health challenges, he says the park has been a joy. It has been a good distraction from the things that challenge him -- as well as something to focus and channel his tremendous positive energy.
Over the summer, when summer camps were populating the park which brings a twinkle to his eye, stating, “It’s delightful hearing them play. Kids being kids, having fun and just being happy playing outside. Imagine that! What could be better?”
More times than not, visitors to RHP who seem lost are drawn to him and he is always happy to give directions, hand out park maps, and even offer to lead the way to wherever visitors want to go.
A two-year member of the Friends of Crowell Hilaka, Tom is one of the first to arrive at 9 a.m. on Saturdays for the weekly "Weekend Warriors," where he energetically focuses on task at hand.. For him, one of his most memorable projects was rebuilding the fire circle at Amity House. While working, he and fellow volunteer, Corey Ringle, found two salamanders which they decided to relocate to a happier home at Spif’s Garden.
For Tom, being out in nature is a very spiritual experience. It’s relaxing, inspiring and healing. Recently, while taking a break from one of his daily 3-4 mile circuit hikes, he paused near the waterfalls by the lower lake. While sitting on some rocks, he saw a tree with branches that formed a perfect cross. He exhaled and acknowledged the gift of nature. So, too, he acknowledges the many daily gifts of seeing Peregrine Falcons, Pileated Woodpeckers, red fox, deer and even a few eagles.
But perhaps even a greater gift, according to Tom, “This park is a great place to meet people. I’m so grateful for every single person
I’ve crossed paths with and I’m especially grateful for the many friends I have gained.”