July 09, 2014 - Joe and Pat Schnur aren't looking for accolades or a moment in the spotlight, but they're going to get both on Saturday, July 19 when they ride down E. Elmwood before a cheering crowd.
Addison Twp. residents Joe and Pat Schnur will serve as the Grand Marshals for the parade at the 62nd Annual Strawberry Festival in the Village of Leonard on Saturday, July 19. The couple is being honored for their tireless efforts to improve and protect the 229-acre Watershed Preserve Park along Rochester Rd. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
The 15-year Addison residents will serve as the parade Grand Marshals at the 62nd Annual Strawberry Festival in Leonard.
"To be honest with you, I'm very honored," Joe said.
The Schnurs, who have been married for 55 years, are being recognized for everything they've done over the years to enhance, promote and protect the 229-acre Watershed Preserve Park, located along Rochester Rd., just north of Leonard.
"I pick people (for Grand Marshal) because they give to the community in some way," explained Leonard Village Councilwoman Char Sutherby, a member of the festival committee. "These people have been very giving for a long time."
"The thing is we'd do it even if nobody said thanks," Joe said. "We'd still do it because we want the park to be right."
"It's a legacy you leave behind for your grandchildren and the kids that come after that," Pat said.
Joe has served on the township Parks and Recreation Committee since February 2001 and led the appointed body since May 2004 when he was elected chairman.
He also serves as one of the township's 18 volunteer park rangers. He and the others routinely walk through the Watershed Preserve to make sure nobody's violating the ordinances by, for example, having illegal campfires or consuming alcohol.
The park rangers simply serve as "eyes and ears" for the township, according to Joe.
"We're not cops," he noted.
When the rangers spot illegal activity, they immediately call the proper authorities to handle the situation.
Pat is an herbalist who helps educate the public about all the plants that grow wild in the park by giving nature tours. She teaches people which plants are edible, which can be used a medicine, which are invasive and perhaps most importantly, which are poisonous.
Both enjoy the park because it's largely untouched and unspoiled by man – and they plan to do everything in their power to keep it that way.
"Someday, you'll be able to rollerblade all the way from Port Huron to Ludington," Joe said. "You won't do it through Watershed Park. It's always going to be a (nature) preserve. It's never going to be a park with baseball diamonds and things like that."
"You can go to the park and enjoy nature without a lot of (modern) noise," he continued. "You can see birds, you can see ducks on the lake, you can see deer walking around. You really can't do that in most of lower Michigan."
Joe said the park basically represents a little piece of northern Michigan in the southern part of the state.
"Pristine" is the word Pat used to describe the acres upon acres of trees, plants and lakes teeming with all manner of wildlife and fish.
"It's very natural," she said. "People take their dogs in there all the time. They take their kids fishing."
To Joe, the park shows folks "how it used to be" in the days when America wasn't a country or even a collection of colonies, but a vast, untamed wilderness.
"I think it's important that we have someplace you (can visit) and see what our country was like before the settlers came," he said.
Joe's favorite part of Watershed Preserve Park is Slating Lake. "It really looks like it's always been the same – like it would have (looked) if you went back (in time) 400 years," he said. "The forest goes down toward the water. There's one dock on it for fishing, but you can't even see that."
Joe also loves the "beautiful pine forest" in the park. "It's got great, big beautiful blue spruces," he said. "If you want to see pine trees, this is the place. It will take maybe 10 or 15 more years before they become really large, but they're already pretty big. They're already 20 to 30 feet tall."
Pat loves "anything that's natural and beautiful" in the park like beaver damns.
That's because nature's been left to "do whatever it's supposed to do."
She is vehemently opposed to anything that interferes with the natural world, from fracking to using chemicals to control weeds.
"I'm not into that kind of thing," she said.
It was very difficult trying to get the Schnurs to talk about themselves and their numerous contributions to Watershed Preserve Park because, being the modest people they are, they were much more interested in praising others for their efforts.
"What I really want to emphasize is that there are good people (serving with) the (park) rangers and on the (parks and rec.) committee, who do real work," Joe said. "They don't goof around. They get right in there and do it. We have terrific people."
Joe complimented Eric Eisenhardt for the parking lot he installed at the park.
"That was a masterpiece," he said.
He praised township Supervisor Bruce Pearson for moving the historic Arnold schoolhouse to the site, so it could be preserved, renovated and enjoyed by park visitors.
He also praised Pearson for his role in getting a wireless carrier to build its cell tower in the park and pay lease fees to the township.
"(The lease) pays for the park," Joe said. "Nobody has to pay taxes (to support the park)."
Joe wished to note the contributions of Charlie Peringian and Rod Blaysck. Both serve on the parks and rec. committee and are park rangers.
"They do everything and you don't have to ask them more than once," he said.
Joe also offered some kind words for Addison Township Clerk Pauline Bennett.
"I have to work with her all the time," he said. "She's very easy to work with. She's never in a bad mood."
"Anybody who wants to run for clerk should watch her for one day. They'd say, 'I don't want that job,'" Schnur noted. "She works like a dog. She's got 15 different balls in the air and when they all come down, she catches them."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.