One volunteer has put in more than 7,500 hours at the park
Gilroy resident Teddy Goodrich grew up on a Northern California ranch. After her family sold it, she missed the rural life of wandering its rolling hills.
Years later, she took a hike at Henry W. Coe State Park. That experienced changed everything for her. She started volunteering with the nonprofit Pine Ridge Association at Coe in 1980.
Since then, Goodrich has put in more than 7,453 hours making the 87,000-acre wilderness a welcoming experience for the visitors who seek its rugged splendor. At a volunteer appreciation party held Nov. 3 inside the big white barn at the park’s entrance, the retired teacher was honored with the prestigious Poppy Award from the park district’s staff for her many years of service leading interpretive programs as the park’s historian.
“I realized when I started hiking up here, this is exactly what I knew as a child,” she told the gathered group after being presented with the award. “I told a friend of mine that I was going to volunteer. She thought I was crazy because Patrick (her son) was little and I was a single parent and working.”
The love of the land was a shared experience. Patrick grew up at Coe, backpacking and camping in the park since he was 5, Goodrich said. He continued the volunteer tradition and spends time staffing the Visitors Center, guiding people on trail options they might wish to explore.
Ranger Barry Breckling got Goodrich interested in the Indian tribes that, long before American settlement, hunted here. She started taking classes at Gavilan and the interest in these natives grew so much that she spent five years working on her master’s degree in anthropology at San Jose State University. She worked for five years with the National Park Service in Yosemite, spending three months in the summer helping visitors learn about the history. That job inspired her to work on a history project on Coe to share the stories of the various pioneers who settled the land. The book she wrote is called “Names on the Land: A History of Henry. W. Coe State Park.” It’s filled with tales of the colorful characters who helped shape South Valley ranching in the 19th and 20th centuries.
“When I started volunteering here, it was like going back to my childhood,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate because many of the people I knew growing up I was able to interview about the history of this area. I’ve been very blessed. I couldn’t ask for anything more being the volunteer historian.”
Goodrich also has an eye to the future of the park and served as the voice for the 60th anniversary celebration held Nov. 10. That event motivated about 30 Pine Ridge Association uniformed volunteers to work on making much needed repairs and renovations to the Visitors Center building, which after more than half a century of service became a bit worn from weather and use. She envisioned the timeline of the park’s history and created new exhibits for visitors to learn about the park’s past, providing all the text and the photos for the display. She also developed a history brochure of the park available at the Visitors Center.
“Her vast knowledge and her willingness to share what she has learned has been invaluable to the district’s archaeologist in interpreting the scattered remnants of native villages and homesteads and the ranching landscape,” said park ranger Patricia Clark-Gray. “She has been able to tie names to places and weave them together into stories that demonstrate the significance of Henry Coe and its resources and its rich history in California.”
Jen Naber, a state park ranger at Coe, said that the Pine Ridge Association and its team of volunteers do much to help the five rangers and two maintenance staff members keep the wilderness open. The renovation of the Visitors Center could not have been done without the nearly 30 people who worked on it, she said.
“We don’t have a lot of paid staff, so to get these anniversary projects done, that requires a lot of labor and we need extra bodies,” she said. “And the volunteers are passionate. They meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays to come here and dedicate their time to putting the new windows in and getting the siding done and getting everything ready for our big VIP event.”
The park’s staff truly appreciates the work the volunteers do and that’s why they put on the annual event to thank them, said state park peace officer/ranger John Verhoeven.
“They’re the lifeblood of the park. They’re invested and have that passion and love,” he said. “For most, a simple thank you is sufficient, they’re not expecting anything big. But when you’re thinking of a person like Teddy who has been volunteering for nearly 40 years … we have to recognize that. We’re lucky to have volunteers like Teddy.”
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