Fairfield’s newest volunteer program help city’s ‘hidden gem’ shine

Rob Bruner, 61, is a Park Ambassador with the city of Fairfield. He's been a volunteer since October 2020 after seeing a posting by the city seeking volunteers. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Rob Bruner, 61, is a Park Ambassador with the city of Fairfield. He's been a volunteer since October 2020 after seeing a posting by the city seeking volunteers. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Parks department hoping to grow ambassador program, which began last fall.

It wasn’t until Rob Bruner became a Fairfield Park Ambassador that he learned exactly how many parks there are in Butler County’s third-largest city.

“I think they’re a hidden gem of Fairfield,” said the 61-year-old Cincinnati Financial Corp. retiree. “There are some I wasn’t aware of.”

Fairfield’s parks department started the ambassador program last fall and while it only has a handful of people volunteering, they hope it will grow, said Parks and Recreation Director Tiphanie Mays.

“The sky’s the limit,” she said on the growth of this new volunteer program. “If we can get a couple of dozen, that would be such a positive thing to have that in our parks.”

There are nearly 30 parks in the city’s portfolio totaling nearly 1,000 acres of land. The largest of its parks is the 200-plus-acre Harbin Park which is in the process of being renovated. But there are only six maintenance laborers that help maintain the parks, so the ambassadors help make sure park properties are cleaned up, but also report immediate needs, like broken equipment.

The volunteer job is “pretty simple,” said Bruner. He walks around the parks, picks up trash if he sees it, checks for issues, and talks with people.

“It’s giving back,” he said. “It’s only two to three hours a week I’m actually at the parks doing stuff.”

Last fall, Kim Kent retired after being self-employed doing senior care for the past 10 years. The 62-year-old wanted to volunteer in some fashion, then she read about the Parks Ambassador program in one of the city’s publications and thought, “This was perfect. This is what I’m going to do.”

She focuses a lot of her time helping at FurField ― she adopted a dog last July and lives a two-minute drive from the dog park. And socializing is what she enjoys, and believes helps out the parks program the most.

“I socialize every time I’m there. You meet someone new, and talk to them,” Kent said. “There’s nothing really super required of you. It’s fun, and you meet a lot of people. I meet new people every single time I go. I really love the socialization of it.”

She said a lot of people come from outside the city, and she references them to the FurField Facebook page.

Mays said the department has a “very robust and well-established” volunteer program, and the city has added new park land in recent years. These volunteers are everyday users of the parks and are “our eyes and ears,” she said.

“They’re proud users of our parks. They take ownership of what we do,” she said. “We definitely have to embrace the people that our advocates, and put them in that role where we give them that for us.”

The Park Ambassador program is managed by the city’s volunteer coordinator, Brittany Theilman. She can be reached at 513-896-8439 or btheilman@fairfieldoh.gov.

FAIRFIELD PARKS