Rock Ledge seeks volunteers; to cut hours slightly in ‘09

       Rocked a bit by budget cuts, the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site will still have a summer season - though two weeks shorter than before - and is looking for new volunteers to help out.
       Morning (9:30 to 10:30 a.m.) and evening (6:30 to 7:30 p.m.) volunteer orientation sessions are scheduled at the ranch's Carriage House Thursday, March 26 for people who are interested in being a docent. Pre-reregistration is requested at 578-6777.
       The city-owned, 230-acre, 1880s-style working ranch is located off 30th Street and Gateway Drive.
       According to Elizabeth Barber, lead interpreter, “There are many ways you can be involved, whether you want to guide a tour or work behind the scenes.” These include giving tours and demonstrations; serving holiday teas; learning about cooking, gardening and crafting; helping in the blacksmith shop or school programs; sewing and organizing clothing; working in the store or at the gate; and assisting at special events. Some volunteers dress in period clothing while others wear Rock Ledge shirts and name badges.
       “It is a great way to meet people from across the country and around the world and to experience firsthand what life may have been like in another time,” Barber said.
       The deadline to apply for the Junior Docent program for youth volunteers (ages 10-16) will be April 17. Ranch manager Andy Morris recommended people apply for it early, because it usually fills up quickly.
       Rock Ledge's '09 Living History season, in which the public can visit the ranch five days a week, will start June 6 and continue through mid-August, Morris said. In previous years, the season lasted two weeks longer, until Labor Day.
       Another cost savings will be found through a slight reduction in Living History hours. Sundays, which have traditionally had low morning attendance, will have an opening time of noon instead of 10 a.m., Morris said.
       However, he noted that the ranch expects to offer most of its usual special events throughout 2009, including the fifth annual Fiddles, Vittles & Vino, which will be moved to July 25 from its previous late-August time slot. Coming up April 18 will be Earth Day, in which Rock Ledge features tree planting with its longtime volunteer group (the Living History Association) and coordinates activities with its neighbor (on the other side of 30th Street), the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center.
       Not as obvious to the public will be the city's budgetary decision to eliminate funding for building improvements on the ranch in 2009. Morris said that if it's just for one year, the cutback shouldn't have too harsh an effect. “We've been staying up with the upkeep, so this year we should be OK,” he said.
       A loss that will be felt administratively is City Parks' eliminating the position of visitor center supervisor. The job has belonged to Gene Smith, a longtime parks employee who had overseen preservation efforts since Rock Ledge's early days under city ownership.
       “We are going to make do,” Morris said. “We had to make some decisions by taking cost-saving measures, but we're still here. And, if anyone is interested in volunteering we'd love it, and it helps me too.”

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