pineyfallPiney Run Park recently lost both of its naturalists as a result of county budget cuts, said a volunteer at the park’s Nature Center.

The county recently laid off 18 county workers, among them Kelly Vogelpohl and Erica Starr, both naturalists at the Piney Run Nature Center. The sudden loss of two key employees has left the park reeling. Diane Summerhill, a volunteer at the park, said the Nature Center had to cancel a number of activities.

“We don’t have the staff to support the programs,” she explained. “Volunteers have been staffing the park for the pat few days because the naturalists are gone.”

Summerhill said that at least three programs would have to be cancelled, though it was likely more would suffer the same fate. Among the programs being cut are two Christmas craft workshops, one for adults and another for children, which Summerhill said had been very popular in the past.

In addition to this, a county press release mentioned that the hours of the Piney Run Nature Center would be reduced. The center will be open from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. through the end of March. From April through October, the park’s open season, it will be open Wednesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m. The Nature Center will close for the holidays starting Dec. 25 and reopen on Monday, Jan. 4.

Summerhill said that the park received warning about a month ago that there would be lay-offs. When the actual lay-offs came around the park was left in shock.

“We assumed that probably one of the naturalists would be laid off, but we had absolutely no warning that they both would be laid off.”

So where does this leave the park? Summerhill mentioned that one of Hashawha’s naturalists came to Piney Run to cover for the two lost positions. He arrived at the park on Dec. 7.



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