Protect Geauga Parks honors Heroes of Conservation

Tami Gingrich
Tami Gingrich was one of four people to be named a Hero of Conservation by Protect Geauga Parks. Pictured from left: Gingrich, Tami's mother, Lois Locher, and Dan Best. (Frank Gwirtz photo)

CHARDON, Ohio — Protect Geauga Parks honored those who have made extraordinary contributions to the preservation and protection of natural lands and resources at the eighth annual Heroes of Conservation Awards on Nov. 12 at the Munson Township Hall.

The 2023 class of award recipients included Tami Gingrich; Mary and Todd Ray, of Munson Township, and Jacqueline Samuel.


Gingrich recently retired from a 31-year career as a field naturalist with Geauga Park District. She’s been a licensed bird bander for more than three decades, and she currently heads a project in Geauga County to re-establish the American Kestrel.

Additionally, Gingrich rears butterflies and moths, gardens for pollinators and photographs both wildlife and traditions of the Amish community throughout Geauga County. Examples of her Amish photography are in the permanent collection of the Buckeye Agricultural Museum & Education Center in Wooster, Ohio.

She is also known to thousands of readers of Farm and Dairy through her weekly nature column, and she is a regular contributor to Northern Woodlands Magazine out of Lyme, New Hampshire.

Gingrich and her husband, Phil, reside on a small farm in Parkman with their mules, goats, poultry and dogs.

Mary and Todd Ray

Mary and Todd Ray
Mary and Todd Ray were among those named Heroes of Conservation by Protect Geauga Parks. Pictured from left: Irene McMullen, Munson Township Trusee, Mary Ray and Todd Ray. (Frank Gwirtz photo)

Mary and Todd Ray have worked tirelessly to preserve land throughout Geauga County for over 30 years.

As a Munson Township Trustee, Todd was instrumental in securing 165 acres that would eventually become Nero Nature Preserve and 100 acres in what is now Scenic River Retreat.

Additionally, Todd served on the board of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy from 2001 to 2006 and served six years on the Geauga Park District Foundation board, the original philanthropic foundation supporting Geauga Park District.

In 2003, Mary and Todd established the Munson Land Protection Fund, a privately held donor-advised fund within The Cleveland Foundation that provides financial support for the acquisition of land or conservation easements to preserve undeveloped properties in Munson.

Incidentally, the MLP Fund played a key role in securing permanent conservation easements on 84 acres of privately owned land in Munson this spring by awarding a $17,500 grant to cover legal and stewardship expenses.

The Rays have also applied their land protection and stewardship ethic to their property. In 2010, they placed a conservation easement on fifty acres of their wetlands and surrounding woodlands.


Jacqueline Samuel
Jacqueline Samuel was one of four people named a Hero of Conservation by Protect Geauga Parks. Pictured, from left: Marta Stone, chair of the Ohio Nature Conservancy, and Samuel. (Frank Gwirtz photo)

Samuel is a lifelong conservationist who has supported many Geauga Park District projects, including Observatory Park. She has also built the first — and so far the only — “net-zero” home in Geauga County. Its 35 solar panels produce more electricity than she needs most of the time, which goes back into the grid. Additionally, the land surrounding her home remains mostly wild, providing habitat for native plants, birds and pollinators. Visitors are welcome to learn how her home was constructed.

“Against people’s beliefs, I wanted to prove it could be done in northeast Ohio and, if so, that it could be an inspiration for others,” Samuel stated in her acceptance speech.

Her continued efforts demonstrate that energy-efficient homes and conservation practices can be achieved in northeast Ohio.

Protect Geauga Parks issues three Heroes of Conservation awards annually. The recipients are selected by a committee and nominated by the nonprofit’s board of trustees. The award was created to recognize those who have made lasting contributions to conservation in Geauga County.

“This will be 24 people and I don’t think we’re anywhere near running out of interesting people in the community,” Protect Geauga Parks Trustee Dave Partington said.

For more information about Protect Geauga Parks and the Heroes of Conservation, visit or visit their Facebook page ProtectGeaugaParks.


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