July is Parks and Recreation Month! We’re also celebrating our 90th birthday this July. While we can’t celebrate with you in person right now, we’re commemorating these occasions in a different way: Meet the faces behind Great Parks of Hamilton County. Learn more about the people who are passionate about bringing you the best experience every time you visit your favorite Great Park.
Meet Kara Schirmer, Grants Manager
How long have you worked for Great Parks of Hamilton County?
What first interested you in working in parks and recreation?
Many of the parks in Hamilton County have a special story for me. Much of my childhood was shaped by experiences at parks including my time playing recreational sports, enjoying picnics and parties with friends and family and exploring the natural world. I believe public access to parks and green spaces is one of the most important amenities a community can provide. I am passionate about the goals and vision of Great Parks and its commitment to conservation, so when I saw an opportunity to work for the parks, I jumped on it immediately!
What is a typical day at work like for you?
As a Grants Manager, a typical day might involve meeting with fellow staff members to discuss a project or program in need of funding, meeting with a grant funder about ways in which we can partner on common goals, gathering data on a grant-funded program or putting together a grant proposal. My work involves a mix of collaboration with others and time on my own researching and writing. I am always looking for ways to tie the mission of Great Parks with the goals of our local, state and national philanthropic partners.
How does your work directly impact park guests?
Through public input and outreach, Great Parks has and continues to gather information from our park guests about why they use the parks and what they would like to see in the future. The work I do involves taking those recommendations and turning them into a reality by securing funding for various projects and programs. The work I do ensures that we are good stewards of taxpayer funding and provide the biggest impact in services and amenities for our park guests.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love to write and I love to write for a cause even more. To me, grant writing is such an exciting process because it involves both teamwork and self-determination. I am happiest at my job when I get to help someone take an exciting idea and turn it into a funded project or program. The best part of my job is all the variability involved. One day, I could be sitting in on a nature program and another I could be touring a potential project location for ecological restoration. I love to learn, and the more I learn, the more effective I am with funding.
Who do you spend the most time with outside of work?
Outside work, I spend the most time with my husband, Adam. Before we got married, one of my favorite dates was when I took him to Miami Whitewater Forest for a night of Shakespeare in the Park. Before the show started, we took a rowboat out on the lake, then got some ice cream and enjoyed the show as the sun set on the lake. In our free time, we like to cook and bake together, work on house projects, hang out with family and friends and try to see who can win the most games in tennis.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Much of my free time is spent in the backyard tending to my garden or relaxing on the patio. This year, my husband and I have been working hard to transform our small section of suburbia into a backyard wildlife habitat. I enjoy seeing how the native plants thrive and provide an important source of food for the pollinators that then pollinate my cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes!
Do you have a favorite spot in Great Parks?
There are so many great spots! I would have to say my favorite place is along the Gorge Trail at Sharon Woods. This serene, creek-side trail is perfect for meditation and getting back in touch with nature. Almost every time a family member or friend comes to visit me, we take a walk along this trail.
What are your hopes for Great Parks of Hamilton County’s next 90 years?
My hope for the future of Great Parks is twofold. First and foremost, I want Great Parks to be a place that every person from every walk of life feels connected to and has access to. Another hope I have for Great Parks is for it to be an example for conservation and sustainability, responding to and being part of the solution to climate change.