She may be small but she is mighty! Energetic and full of enthusiasm, Corey Ringle (33) of Shaker Heights has made Richfield her second home. She can be seen hiking the trails of Richfield Heritage Preserve on any given day, selflessly giving her time, effort and muscle every Saturday morning at the weekly scheduled Work Days. Her naturally wavy hair pulled back in a short ponytail, Corey’s effervescent personality bubbles over as she pulls weeds, digs new fire circles, tears down dilapidated tent platforms, relocates salamanders to better homes in the park, you name it. From her smile, you can tell there’s no place else on earth she’d rather be than at the park, working to make it better and sharing that joy with others.
Corey knows the park fondly as Crowell Hilaka, spending summers at the former Girl Scout Camp from the time she was just six years old. First there was indoor “camping” with her mother in one of the property’s many historic buildings until she was able to camp on her own. Summers thereafter turned into adventures with her best friend Susie, and new friends yet to be made. Eventually week-long camping turned into multiple weeks of camping as Corey gained experience a scout and as a leader. That was 12 years of her childhood. Summers at Crowell Hilaka.
It wasn’t until she graduated from Kent State University with a degree in architecture that she and Susie planned a camping weekend for old time’s sake. That idea blossomed into a reunion weekend when they decided to see if anyone else wanted to join them, and to their happy surprise there were many! That was 2009. A great time was had by all accounts, with the exception of one surprising, sobering thought, . . . it could possibly be the last time anyone would camp at Crowell Hilaka. At that time, the National Girl Scout office decided to de-emphasize outdoor programming and councils across the country began closing-down camps. Crowell Hilaka was one of them.
Not long after returning from her fun weekend with Susie and other Girl Scout alumni, Corey decided to join forces with others to try to shift the tide and save Crowell Hilaka. Fresh out of college, she marched into the Council office with her sleeves rolled up, ready to go. When the first person she approached asked if she had a daughter, Corey was swiftly dismissed. Discouraged, and a little put off, she turned to leave when a woman stopped her and asked her if she wanted to volunteer. Corey said emphatically, “Yes!!” That woman was Lynn Richardson, a former Girl Scout Leader, who was helping to lead a strategic effort to save Crowell Hilaka, a place Lynn and her daughters had come to love over their years together in scouting. Lynn mentored Corey, stating the way to make substantive change was to become a delegate. Roberts Rule book in hand, Corey studied and worked hard to get elected and have her voice not only heard but to have her vote count!
In the months that followed, Corey helped pursue the support of Crowell Hilaka Alumni, promoting awareness of the park’s possible closing with highly successful Sunday Funday events at the camp, one for which she built her own Trebuchet (catapult) to toss pumpkins at a fall event. (How many women do you know would do that?!) When the overwhelming support for the camp didn’t dissuade the Council to save Crowell Hilaka, she and others shifted gears looking for potential buyers, knowing the camp would soon be up for sale. It was a long, arduous process with more bumpy ups and downs than a wooden roller coaster.
Her role with FoCH was pivotal in getting the support of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy which ultimately saved the land from development. Then convincing Richfield Township and Richfield Village to form a joint recreation district and pursue taxpayer support to purchase Crowell Hilaka through a Levy and Bond Issue. Corey’s passion never waned. Diplomatic, eminently polite and patient, she says the motto they all lived by was, “Don’t complain, take action,” and that approach continues to work to this day some EIGHT years later!
Today, Corey is the current president of The Friends of Crowell Hilaka which is now recognized by the Richfield Joint Recreation District as the official friends and volunteer group of Richfield Heritage Preserve. In her role, she continues her proactive support of finding ways to get things done. Working shoulder to shoulder with Lynn and so many other passionate people, her circle of friends has expanded and includes so many she knows she would have never had the opportunity to meet otherwise.
She continues to travel to Richfield two-to-three times a week, sometimes more, to attend board meetings, Work Days, committee and volunteer meetings, events, whatever is needed.
Earlier in July while she was lugging her tools back to her car after a Work Day at Last Chance, a campsite on the farthest reaches of the property, a woman who was jogging offered to help Corey carry the load. Corey smiled and assured the jogger she was fine to which the jogger replied, “I could just hug all of you!! Thank you so much for all you’re doing here!” That just about made Corey’s heart explode!
Corey admits, “I don’t have kids but I imagine this is the same feeling when you know others love your kid as much as you do. It makes you really proud of how you’ve worked hard and invested your time, love and energy!”
With the future of her beloved Crowell Hilaka, history intact, Corey leads the Friends group by solving issues, looking for ways to create the greatest impact with the resources they have and continuing to get things done. On their growing list of things to do is to bring more Richfield residents into the fold and create more volunteer opportunities.
“There’s so much to be done,” says Corey. “Literally, we need as many hands as possible and the talents of this wonderful community to contribute and make this park the amazing place it once was and even greater than any of us could have ever possibly imagined!”
The Friends group will continue to support RHP in any way it can. Whatever the need or request, they will endeavor to accomplish that goal. In addition, they will continue leading its historical and educational hikes, heading up the invasive plant removal brigades, organizing the weekly Weekend Warrior Work Days, as well as growing popular community events which they initiated such as the “James Kirby Birthday Celebration."
“Our most important role is to bring younger kids and their families on board and get them excited about the future,” says Corey. “For the next generation to love and care for this wonderful place just as all of us have!”