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  • Sue Leamy Kies

Volunteer Spotlight: On the Trail With John Urness

If you want to see a dedicated trail volunteer, look no further than John Urness. At 83 years of age, he’s still mulching. John helps the Wednesday morning crew get the job done. In fact, he’s done so ever since the trail crews got their start. Before PCA adopted what is now the David Canny Rountree Branch Trail, John and his family, wife Ellen and their three boys, biked parts of the trail that existed then. He said that at that time the trail was kept up to an extent, but it was overgrown and fallen trees sometimes blocked the path. When John found out that PCA was seeking trail volunteers, he signed up to help the cause. Since then he and Ellen have contributed labor and monetary donations to make the trail usable and beautiful for individuals and families in our community.

One of John’s favorite jobs is spreading mulch along the trail because it keeps it looking neat and the weeds at bay. He is also a pro at using the blower to clean off the leaves, walnuts and nature’s debris. One of his least favorite jobs is pulling invasive plants. “My mind is okay with it, but the rest of the body complains a lot,” he says. 

That’s another thing that John contributes while working on the trail: a sense of humor and fun. I know because I work on the Wednesday morning crew with him. In fact, he is the one who enlisted me. “It’s a fun, social group, and we’re doing good for the community,” he told me. “Just give it a try and see what you think.” I did, and four years later I’m still there. He was right on all counts. Thank you, John.

John was a high school science and math teacher for 40 years before retiring. Besides volunteering on the trail, John also served on the Rollo Jamison Museum Board for 31 years. He is a member of the Harry Nohr Woodturners and the Platteville Chorale. Projects with his grandchildren and trips to Disney World with Ellen continue to keep his life fun and interesting.

When asked why he continues to volunteer on the trail, he answered, “Because I can.” And PCA is very glad that he can, too.

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