Mohawk student, 16, honored for park work

Mitch Haren, a sophomore at Mohawk High School, was named volunteer of the year by Tiffin Park & Recreation Department Thursday.

Haren, 16, has been an active volunteer for the city parks for the past three years, regularly donating 20-40 hours per week toward many maintenance projects throughout summer breaks from school.

“He spent countless hours doing tasks such as litter pickups, trimming and assisting with preparation and teardown for special events,” said Director Steve Dryfuse and Program Director Matt Coleman in a written statement. “Mitch has also taken time during holidays off at school, as well as on the weekends, to assist the department with numerous seasonal duties.”

Haren recently earned his Eagle Scout designation by designing and building a site at the Tiffin AmVets to properly dispose of deteriorated American flags.

“It is obvious that Mitch Haren sees the benefits of physical activity, the great outdoors and the added value that is generated by well-kept parks and programs for people of all ages in our community to enjoy,” the staff members said.

“We’re extremely proud of him. He gives and gives and gives,” said his father, Doug Haren, who attended the ceremony with Mitch’s mother, Jean.

“It’s important for the younger generation to step up and volunteer,” said park board chairman John Bing. “It’s become difficult for people to find time to contribute and volunteer and help. It’s very encouraging. It makes us feel the future of our community and country is in good hands.”

“We can’t thank you enough for seeing how much that volunteer effort is needed,” said Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Jim Roberts attended as the new representative from Tiffin City Council.

Dryfuse introduced Erica Huffman, a senior at Heidelberg University, as the department’s winter intern.

Huffman is working on updating marketing literature such as event flyers and park maps including a map of all the trails available for walking in Tiffin.

Soon, she said she hopes to make the website more user-friendly and get Tiffin parks connected to online and social networking sites such as Wikipedia, Yelp and others, as well as create a Survey Monkey survey to get public input on the parks.

“Erica really has hit the ground running,” Coleman said.

During his director’s report, Dryfuse noted new lights have been installed at Oakley Park to illuminate the paved walkway.

Board member George Fretz, who lives near the park, said the lighting is nice and not too bright.

The project, completed with $75,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, included upgrades to the shelter at the park and lighting for the basketball court.

Dryfuse said construction on the dog park is expected to start as soon as weather allows this spring. Legal issues are being worked through, he said.

Montz said he met with the dog park committee to explain the correct process for making donations to the city because there had been some “issues.”

Dryfuse said staff members have been working inside on sets of bleachers, changing many of them from five rows to three rows to meet safety standards.

He said staff members attended the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association annual meeting last week, which provides good networking.

Dryfuse noted the city is not currently eligible to apply for grants to buy items made from recycled materials through Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca Joint Solid Waste District because it doesn’t meet the district’s recycling program requirements. OSS requires at least 40 hours per week to be available to the public for recycling.

“We will be getting a curbside recycling system in place,” Montz said.

Coleman said the department is working on setting up a Sledding Under the Stars program when the temperature is warm enough and roads are clear enough for travel. The program provides a supervised spot at Hedges-Boyer Park for kids and adults to sled.

Dryfuse noted he has not received a response from Steve Crone at Tiffin YMCA regarding an agreement between the two entities which would allow the YMCA to operate the city pool again this summer.

Board members encouraged him to keep trying because time is running short to get the agreement in place.