On behalf of the Friends for the Abbott Marshland, Mary Leck presented the Mary Allessio Leck Award for the year 2020 to Warren Libensperger in appreciation for his exceptional volunteer service to the Abbott Marshlands. Due to covid-19 gathering restrictions, a small socially distanced group surprised Warren on his way out to the trails to present the award on Wednesday, June 3rd.
Kelly Rypkema and Alexandria Kosowski of the Mercer County Park Commission also presented Warren with a Proclamation from the County Executive, Brian Hughes, and a letter of appreciation from Aaron T. Watson, the Executive Director of the Mercer County Park Commission to honor his volunteer service in the Abbott Marshlands.
Mary noted in her remarks as she presented the award that Warren is an amazing volunteer, contributing in myriad ways to make the marshland he loves a better place for others to visit. Warren first became involved as a marsh volunteer in mid 1990s helping plant the berm, which replaced an unsightly rutted road at the edge of Spring Lake in Roebling Park. Warren, who grew up near the marsh and attended Lalor School, knows the marsh well. He hunted, fished, swam, and hung out there as a kid. Warren knows the marsh trails and waterways better than anyone else.
Warren has contributed in many ways. There have been numerous trash pick-ups; he helped with nearly all of them. In addition to the formal ones, he and Clyde Quin made sure before programs that the marsh looked its best. Because of him and others, there is greater appreciation of the marshlands and much less daily trash. Warren helped with trail maintenance when landowners didn’t have staff. If he saw something that needed doing he did it –sprayed roots white for night walks, built boardwalks over muddy places on trails, and bridges and walkways over tidal channels to allow access to trails. He helped install markers for the first tidal water trail.
Warren has pruned bushes along all marsh trails, and removed fallen branches and camps and camping detritus.He mowed the connector trail leading from the D&R Canal towpath trail to Lamberton Road on D&R Greenway’s new property at the end of Lamberton Road for two or three years because it needed it. For this he brought his own lawn mower. He’s made benches, one for Charlie Leck on the way to the eagle’s nest on the Duck Island towpath trail, as well as elsewhere. He did these things without being asked. For several years he served on the Friends Executive Committee and provided an on-the-ground view of what needed to be done. He’s pitched in to help on field trips and canoe trips. His deeds are gifts to all who visit. These he does without fanfare!
Warren keeps track of trails and roadways and alerts us to problems, often trash, but also illegal activities such as someone creating a new trail with a bull dozer! Much he does on his own or with a friend. For example, in 2018 a bridge over a small tidal channel on the way to floodplain wildflowers near Yardville had been carried away by flood water. He and Jack Graham built a new one. That necessitated carrying lumber and cinder blocks to the bridge site. Neither one is a young man anymore. But they figured out how to get the job done.
In addition, Warren is great with kids; he’s helped with the nature center’s fishing program – cleaning plants away from the edge of Spring Lake so the kids can get their lines in the water. He provides advice as well as worms for bait. He keeps the nature center’s snakes and turtles fed with worms too.
For the current trees exhibit at the Tulphehaking Nature Center, he provided samples of various kinds of wood, as well as several carvings, loaned by friends, of water birds native to the marsh most by carvers with connections to the marsh.
Warren has excellent recollections about the marsh, history of people he’s known and its uses, and is an enthusiastic source of information. He keeps track of what goes on – he lets us know if there’s new dumping along Lamberton Road as well as when the shovelers arrive on the back marsh and there’s a flock of ring necked ducks on Spring Lake, and when the Trout Lilies are flowering on the Island. Warren is sponge for marsh information, and occasionally comes up with interesting interpretations!
Warren is a true friend of the marsh; his reach is far and wide. What he does is often taken for granted. He brings a devotion and commitment to the care of the marsh that’s unique. He is kind, considerate, and unassuming; he engages people at the end of the field trip line; he’s helpful to park staff and visitors.
The Mary Allessio Leck Award was initiated in 2019 by Friends for the Abbott Marshlands when Mary Leck stepped away from a virtually full-time leadership position with the Friends after many years of writing agendas and attending to many other details, to continue her botanical and photographic interests. She remains actively engaged with the marsh.
Mary was honored to present the 2020 award to such an outstanding marsh volunteer…and is additionally pleased to be one of Warren’s friends. She also contributed the beautiful photograph below to the Friends for presentation to Warren.